Since marijuana was legalized for recreational use in Colorado, many people have spotted a business opportunity, and not just in selling pot plants. Food entrepreneurs across the state have grasped the chance to make marijuana edibles, from gummy chews to food trucks. But if an overdose of pot doesn’t knock you down, maybe bacteria will, as the state is having a serious problem with food safety violations.
More than 50 marijuana food manufacturers have opened for businesses across the state of Colorado since the law passed. Many of those businesses are based in Denver, where the Denver Department of Environmental Health has found 58 critical violations at 24 establishments.
The food safety violations are the usual culprits like bad refrigeration. So far the inspections have brought about three recalls and the destruction of tens of thousands of dollars worth of products. Fortunately, marijuana edibles have yet to be linked to any cases of food-borne illness, but state and local authorities are holding kitchens making pot-infused delectables to the same food safety standards as restaurants.
According to the Denver Post:
“Scott Henderson, food program supervisor for the Denver Department of Environmental Health, said the city began applying existing food regulations to edibles because of rising safety concerns.
Plant-infused oils can support the growth of dangerous bacteria that can cause illness if eaten, Henderson said.
The city’s food safety regulations classify plant-infused oils as “potentially hazardous foods,” meaning they must be stored refrigerated to prevent bacterial growth unless otherwise approved. The oils are used as the active ingredient in many infused foods.”
Refrigeration is a serious issue, and health authorities are especially concerned that the edibles will become breeding grounds for the bacteria that can lead to botulism. One manufacturer voiced his understanding of the inspections of authorities, but thinks the city is overstepping its bounds, calling it a “witch hunt on edibles.”
The food safety inspections come at the same time as people around the state are starting to be seriously concerned about the availability of edibles on the market. “Edible pot overdosing is said to have been a factor in multiple emergency room visits by children and in two adult deaths,” wrote Food Safety News.
The other issue that has come about has nothing to do with dosage at all, it has to do with labeling. The state requires manufacturers to clearly label the edibles, but critics hold that too often they look similar to children’s candy. Colorado lawmakers have now voted to have the state’s Revenue Department come up with new rules by 2016 in order to better identify foods with marijuana in them.
For the state of Colorado, it will be a question of both health and business. ”We have to be sure that those products that are posing a risk are rethought,” Meg Collins, executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance, told the Wall Street Journal, also highlighting that it’s important to consider the new manufacturers who are in the beginnings of their businesses. “This is a brand-new industry.”
Photo Credit: Dank Depot