Joint Open Letter to State Agriculture Regarding Hemp in Animal Feed

Leading industry and regulatory organizations recently issued a joint open letter to state agriculture leadership, calling on them to support greater education and scientific research to ensure the safety of hemp as an animal-feed ingredient prior to any Federal or state approval.

Read the full letter here.

We understand there may be many questions regarding the allowance of hemp in animal feed. The following FAQs should provide more background information. Should you have additional questions, please contact aafco@aafco.org.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hemp Use

Wasn’t hemp legalized in 2018?
Interest in the use of hemp in commercial animal feed has accelerated since the passage of the 2018 Agricultural Improvement Act (“Farm Bill”). While the Farm Bill expanded the legal production of hemp in the United States, the use of hemp in animal feed remains under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state regulatory programs for commercial animal feed.

Why isn't hemp already approved for use in animal feed?
Currently, no hemp ingredients have been approved through the established animal feed ingredient review pathways. More data is needed to understand that hemp ingredients are safe for animals and result in safe human food (meat, milk, and eggs). For example, research is needed to show that hemp can be utilized by different animals as a source of nutrition and that the ingredients do not present any safety concerns when animals consume them every day and for extended periods of time.

What is needed to get hemp approved in animal feed?
We recommend proponents of hemp in feed work toward ingredient definitions using the defined regulatory pathways used for every animal feed ingredient. Support research through universities or private labs so that the safety and utility of hemp can be fully understood before it is allowed for commercial purposes. Continue to assemble data, and to work on submitting applications through the established animal feed ingredient review processes. Our goal is for more research to ensure the safety and well-being of the public, our animals and our agricultural industry.

Some hemp ingredients are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). Are those ingredients acceptable for use in animal feed?
When a substance is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), the approval is specific to the intended use, which includes the intended species. Hemp seed oil, hulled hemp seed, and hemp seed protein powder are considered GRAS for use in human food, and a GRAS Notice was evaluated by FDA to support this conclusion. However, humans and animals are different, and more data is needed by FDA to evaluate and help ensure that ingredients derived from hemp are safe and effective for use in animal feed.

Will hemp be available in any animal products (i.e., supplements, oils, treats, feed)?
Currently, there are no hemp ingredients approved for use in animal feed or animal drug products. In some states, hemp may be allowed in some feed and other product types.

Why the new process for animal feed ingredients? Why is hemp being regulated now after it has been available for so long?
Hemp is being treated like any other ingredient for animal feed. Although there is historical mention of hemp in animal feed, it is critical to ensure that today’s hemp is safe for today’s animals.

Why is hemp seed going through the ingredient approval process -- and not CBD and other cannabis products?
CBD is an active ingredient in an approved drug for people and cannot be added to food. Ingredients in animal feed must have an appropriate feed use, that is to provide taste, aroma, or nutrition.

I’m trying to purchase CBD in supplements, not as a food or drug. Why are supplements regulated differently?
Under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, there are only animal drugs or animal foods. Some believe they have the ability to sell animal supplement products as a result of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) passed by Congress in 1994. In fact, many animal supplement products contain similar ingredients to those in human dietary supplements. However, FDA published a notice in the Federal Register in 1996 explaining why DSHEA does not apply to animals. Ultimately, many animal supplement type products contain ingredients that may be unsafe food additives or unapproved new animal drugs, making the products unsafe for the animals.

Why are hemp-containing products available for sale in stores?
It is true, there are some cannabis products being marketed as animal health products. However, we want to stress that cannabis has not been approved for any use in animals.

Why do animal feed ingredients require approval, I see hemp seeds for sale at my grocery store?
According to the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, everything added to human food or animal feed must be safe for that use. Hemp seed oil, hulled hemp seed, and hemp seed protein are considered Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for use in human food and a GRAS Notice was evaluated by the FDA to support this conclusion. However, humans and animals are different, and more data is needed to help ensure that ingredients derived from hemp are safe for use in animal feed.

Aren't there some places where I'm allowed to feed hemp?
There are a handful of states that allow the feeding of hemp to animals. It is important to understand the applicable laws and regulations within each state. Each state’s Commercial Feed Program website will have more information regarding the laws and regulations within that state.

Can I feed my own hemp to my own animals?
If the animals or products derived from the animals (meat, milk, or eggs) will enter commerce, then it is important that you ensure you are compliant with all applicable laws and regulations.

Who can I contact with additional questions?
Feel free to contact the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) at aafco@aafco.org, to schedule a call and talk to someone personally. Also, we will continue to share updates on our website.

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Email: aafco@aafco.org
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