Tetrahydrocannabinol in milk and other food of animal origin


tetrahydrocannabinol, Δ9-THC, transfer rate, human exposure, toxicity, risk assessment
First published in the EFSA Journal
26 juin 2015
5 juin 2015
Opinion of the Scientific Committee/Scientific Panel

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on the risks for human health related to the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in milk and other food of animal origin. THC, more precisely delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) is derived from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. In fresh plant material, up to 90 % of total Δ9-THC is present as the non-psychoactive precursor Δ9-THC acid. Since few data on Δ9-THC levels in foods of animal origin were available, the Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) estimated acute human dietary exposure to Δ9-THC combining different scenarios for the presence of Δ9-THC in hemp seed-derived feed materials. Acute exposure to Δ9-THC from the consumption of milk and dairy products ranged between 0.001 and 0.03 µg/kg body weight (b.w.) per day in adults, and 0.006 and 0.13 µg/kg b.w. per day in toddlers. From human data, the CONTAM Panel concluded that 2.5 mg Δ9-THC/day, corresponding to 0.036 mg Δ9-THC/kg b.w. per day, represents the lowest observed adverse effect level. By applying an overall uncertainty factor of 30, an acute reference dose (ARfD) of 1 μg Δ9-THC/kg b.w. was derived. The exposure estimates are at most 3 % and 13 % the ARfD, in adults and toddlers, respectively. The CONTAM Panel concluded that exposure to Δ9-THC via consumption of milk and dairy products, resulting from the use of hemp seed-derived feed materials at the reported concentrations, is unlikely to pose a health concern. A risk assessment resulting from the use of whole hemp plant-derived feed materials is currently not feasible due to a lack of occurrence data. The CONTAM Panel could also not conclude on the possible risks to public health from exposure to Δ9-THC via consumption of animal tissues and eggs, due to a lack of data on the potential transfer and fate of Δ9-THC.

Panel members at the time of adoption
Diane Benford, Sandra Ceccatelli, Bruce Cottrill, Michael DiNovi, Eugenia Dogliotti, Lutz Edler, Peter Farmer, Peter Fürst, Laurentius (Ron) Hoogenboom, Helle Katrine Knutsen, Anne-Katrine Lundebye, Manfred Metzler, Antonio Mutti (as of 6 October 2014), Carlo Stefano Nebbia, Michael O’Keeffe, Annette Petersen (as of 6 October 2014), Ivonne Rietjens (until 2 May 2014), Dieter Schrenk, Vittorio Silano (until 21 July 2014), Hendrik van Loveren, Christiane Vleminckx, and Pieter Wester.
Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain
contam [at] efsa.europa.eu
EFSA Journal 2015;13(6):4141 [125 pp.].
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