Global hemp-for-food trend illegal

UNLIKE foodies in New York, Los Angeles and Denmark, Australian diners won’t be sitting down to a dessert of weed-oil parsley cake with hemp crumble in the near future.

But some of our top restaurateurs are hoping it won’t stay that way for long.

World-class restaurants across the globe have been dishing up hemp-smoked soft cheese, stuffed with fresh hemp leaves, served with a puree made from roasted and blended seeds and weed yoghurt with pumpernickel-marijuana croutons using low-THC varieties of the plant that do not give the ”high” usually associated with the plant.

But regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand has repeatedly knocked back applications for hemp to be allowed as foodstuff despite it being legal in Britain, Canada and France.

As part of his innovation with food philosophy, ACT restaurateur Peter Harrington said he was open to using a TCH-free variety of marijuana if it were legal.

“Who knows, we might have it growing here in the hanging herb garden,” he said.

But at the moment basil and mint adorn the walls of the Sage restaurant courtyard. Usually smoked or eaten for its psychoactive effect, some strains of hemp have such small traces of THC that people would have to eat their own body weight in greens to notice any effect. In NSW a licence to grow low-TCH hemp for fibre or oil can be obtained, and the latest application to Food Standards Australia New Zealand for hemp to be allowed as food stuff is set to be considered this year.

Mr Harrington said it was important to give customers what they wanted and in Canberra that often meant pushing the boundaries.

“We are open-minded on using new ingredients … if it was legal and safe we’d definitely be open to looking at it … I don’t think it’s a gimmick. One of the chefs said he finds it complements herbs, but I think what people are looking for is exploring the limits and boundaries.”

The chief executive of the ACT Restaurant and Catering Association, John Hart, warned local chefs to work within Australian laws as the trend grew overseas.

“Usually we are the forefront of innovation, but in this case I don’t think there is much appetite for marijuana-laced dishes,” Mr Hart said.

“Any of these trends we would advise our members to only embark on what is legal and, providing the use of hemp in any form is within the law, then knock yourself out. But it doesn’t strike me as something that would be particularly tasty.”