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Edibles Packaging: Listing Food Allergens

The Cannabis Packaging and Labeling Regulatory Recommendations for States and Nations guidelines produced by the Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation in collaboration with the National Cannabis Industry Association clearly outlines in Recommendation 7 that “all ingestible infused products and concentrates that are intended to be cooked with, eaten, or otherwise swallowed and digested (i.e. Activated Concentrates) [must include proper] labeling of major food allergens.” This recommendation was made to conform to Section 203(a)(1)-(4) of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA).

The History of Food Allergen Labeling on Edibles

common food intolerances

There has been controversy surrounding the proper labeling of cannabis edibles products. In 2010, Julianna Carella was told by the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) to remove the nutrition labeling from her cannabis-infused products, which she sold through her California-based business known as Auntie Dolores Kitchen. The products, at the time, were not viewed as edibles, medicine, or food. They were simply viewed as cannabis, a regulated Schedule I narcotic.  Her products, which contained ingredients that were likely to cause allergic reactions in some people (nuts such as peanuts and glazed pecans, cheese, and more) were sold in marijuana product packaging that clearly stated the ingredients on the nutrition labels to ensure consumers were able to be aware in the case of any strict dietary needs.

Carella says, “We urged the SFDPH to allow us to keep the labels because sick people eat our products, including diabetics and cancer patients with specific dietary needs, and they need to be able to read and understand what exactly is in them to get the appropriate dose of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the primary active substance in cannabis.”  Auntie Dolores Kitchen convinced the health department that proper nutrition labeling on the cannabis packaging was essential to the safety of consumers. More so, the company made it clear that it is a consumer’s right to know what they are consuming in the cannabis products they are purchasing, and major food allergens should always be included in marijuana product packaging.

Recommendations for Edibles Packaging Labeling

Recommendation 7 of the Cannabis Packaging and Labeling Regulatory Recommendations for States and Nations guidelines align with Carella’s thinking. The guidelines recommend allergen labeling for “all retail packages of ingestible cannabis-infused products and cannabis concentrates that are intended to be taken orally, including concentrates that may be used in cooking.” However, because food allergen labeling is not required for e-cigarettes, raw agricultural commodities, or cosmetics, the guidelines state nutrition labeling is not needed for non-ingestible cannabis-infused products or any concentrates that are only meant to be used through smoking or vaporizing.

In accordance to this recommendation, ingestible infused products and concentrates must be accompanied with a label on the cannabis product packaging that declares the presence of any of the following:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Crustacean shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans
  • Any ingredient containing a protein that is derived from the above-mentioned foods

This is very similar to the requirements for other food products.

Furthermore, the specific type of food allergen must be listed on the label on the cannabis product. For example, if a tree nut is present, the exact type must be stated, such as a walnut or almond.  If a cannabis ingestible product contains one or more major food allergens, it can be labeled in one of two ways:

  • A label that says the word “Contains” followed by all major food allergens present.
  • A label that includes an ingredients list with “the common or usual name of the ingredient that is derived from or contains the major allergen in the ingredients list.”

The Takeaway: Labels on Edibles Packaging Must Consider Food Allergies

It is estimated that nearly four percent of Americans have some type of food allergy. As the cannabis industry continues to expand, marijuana product packaging must follow the same laws as regular food packaging. Although cannabis products are not initially thought of as food, they are, in fact, available as a wide variety of edibles and are meant to be consumed either through inhalation, smoking, or eating; this means their consumption can trigger an allergic reaction if they contain an ingredient a person is allergic to. Thanks to Recommendation 7, we can take comfort in knowing consumers will be properly warned of the ingredients in cannabis products.

See the full report at this link:  https://www.crcr.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Cannabis-Packaging-and-Labeling_Regulatory-Recommendations-for-States-and-Nations-1.pdf

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Bill Ludlow