Use of industrial hemp as animal feed in Western Australia
Western Australia’s reputation for producing high-quality food products is based on our rigorous biosecurity systems that are designed to protect human health and our markets. A key part of our biosecurity system is the legislation designed to prevent residues in livestock and aquaculture products that could affect human health or damage market confidence.
Requirements for animal feed and preventing chemical residues in food-producing animals are contained in WA’s Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 and Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Agriculture Standards) Regulations 2013.
Feeding hemp or hemp products to animals is not prohibited under these regulations. However all producers are responsible for ensuring that any animals or animal products they produce do not contain substances that would contaminate food (including any livestock or aquaculture products).
If hemp or hemp products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or related compounds are fed to animals, the animals may accumulate THC in their fat and detectable levels could transfer to milk or possibly other animal products. There are many factors that may influence the likelihood of this occurring and the area is not currently well understood.
Under WA’s Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Agriculture Standards) Regulations 2013, a contaminant is not allowed to be present in supplied animal products unless Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has set a safe allowed level (a ‘maximum level’) for the contaminant and the contaminant does not exceed that level. FSANZ have not set a maximum level for THC in animal products.
It is an offence to supply a contaminated animal or animal product in WA and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) would be obliged to investigate and undertake appropriate compliance actions if a contaminated animal product was suspected or detected.
If animals or animal products containing detectable levels of THC were supplied to markets sensitive to these compounds, this could also have a negative impact on Western Australia’s food safety reputation and our trade.
DPIRD is not currently aware of suitable published research on how to feed hemp plants or hemp products that contain THC to food-producing animals in a way that avoids THC transferring into animal products.
Some feeding practices that may be more likely to result in THC transferring into animal products include:
- Feeding industrial hemp leaves or flowers, or plants with leaves or flowers attached.
- Feeding hemp seed or seed products that contain more than 10mg/kg total THC or where the hemp product comprises more than 20% of the total animals’ diet.
All producers in WA are responsible for ensuring that any food-producing animals or animal products they supply do not contain unsafe chemical residues or contaminants. Producers should always assess the risk of residues whenever they intend to feed novel or by‑product feed materials to their animals.
It is also important to avoid exposing livestock to plant chemicals used to treat weeds or pests and always follow any grazing withholding periods (GHP) or other label withholding periods.