BI calls on hemp industry to up their sterilization standards

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images jessicahyde
Getty Images jessicahyde

Related tags hemp pesticides farming Supplements

BI Nutraceuticals will to unveil their SQF Certified, FSMA and cGMP compliant hemp product line at the upcoming SupplySide West

The 2019 SupplySide West will bring together over 17,000 ingredient buyers and suppliers. Hemp is expected to be one of the key ingredients at the show.  State and federal law defines “industrial hemp” as cannabis that has 0.3 percent or less tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Cannabis plants that have more than that amount are considered marijuana.

George Pontiakos, BI’s President, said they are actively sourcing hemp in New York State, Colorado, and Canada. “All the tobacco states have very good grow operations, so a lot of these guys are switching from tobacco to hemp.” 

BI’s new line includes a Full Spectrum Hemp Extract Powder, which involves spray-drying hemp to encapsulate the oil. They also have several hemp protein concentrates. Pontiakos told NutraIngredients-USA that BI works with the growers, ensuring they have good hygiene, don’t grow next to a field full of gluten, or plant in an area ridden with heavy metals.. Pontiakos explains that they sterilize the hemp in the whole form in a large autoclave. 

“We bring the product up to temperature and that encourages microbial growth. We really want to encourage the microbes and spores to spawn, and then we kill that spawn with a high-heat low-moisture kill, and we drag that kill through the biomass with a vacuum. It creates a very clean, very organic product.”

Pontiakos pioneered the sterilization process and hopes the industry will follow suit.  

“I think if a consumer knew they were ingesting a product that was sterilized with ethylene oxide or methylene bromide, they wouldn’t take it, or they wouldn’t smoke it. They wouldn’t ingest it, they wouldn’t vape it, that’s an area that then industry has to fix. 

“The fact that a large portion of the hemp industry is sterilizing with irradiation, with ethylene oxide, or with methylene bromide, I don’t think it goes to the marquee of what we’re trying to do from the health and wellness perspective. Irradiation has been outlawed from dietary supplements since DSHEA. Ethylene oxide you can’t use either. Methylene bromide you can’t use either.  So, if you can’t sterilize with these products for a dietary supplement, why would you want to infect them into hemp?”

According to a new report out by advocacy group Vote Hemp, the amount of land US farmers are licensed to grow hemp in has more than quadrupled this year. 

As the industry keeps growing, so do questions on how to maintain environmental sustainability and consumer safety

Last month, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is seeking public input on 10 pesticide applications for hemp.

While the crop and its derivatives were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp farmers are still in limbo as different agencies establish regulations. 

“EPA is taking the next step toward registering crop protection tools for hemp in time for use during the 2020 application and growing seasons,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a press release. “We hope this transparent and public process will bring hemp farmers and researchers increased regulatory clarity in time for next growing season—something they have asked for since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and the legalization of commercial hemp.”

The EPA says it is putting together a team of scientists who will review the proposed pesticides under EPA review. The scientists will consider whether these chemicals are safe for consumers and the environment. The ​proposed agents include insecticides, miticides, fungicides, nematicides and bactericides.

The pesticides under review are already approved for use on other crops, but that approval does not yet extend to hemp. The EPA said providing hemp farmers with this tool “will likely be essential to supporting the success of this industry going forward.” 

Looking ahead, the industry is expected​ to reach $14.67 billion globally by 2026. Last year, the North America region dominated the global industrial hemp market with $1.8 billion. This is attributed to factors such as the legalization of industrial hemp, functional properties of hemp seed and hemp seed oil, and their increased use in food and pharmaceutical applications, as well as a growing number of chronic diseases like diabetes. 

The industrial hemp market is segmented, based on type, into hemp fiber, hemp seed, hemp seed oil, and CBD hemp oil. In the industrial hemp market, CBD hemp oil segment is projected to be the fastest-growing segment. 

Hemp is a rich source of omega-3 and omega-6, amino acids and proteins. These nutrients aid in insulin balance, cardiac function, mood stability, and skin and joint health, which is expected to piggyback on the industry growth.

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