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Food Inspectors Surprise Edible Companies Across Colorado

James Ashkar, owner of At Home Baked, checks products at Advanced Medical Alternatives.
James Ashkar, owner of At Home Baked, checks products at Advanced Medical Alternatives. Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post.

Economics

Food Inspectors Surprise Edible Companies Across Colorado

Edible makers across the state received surprise visits from state inspectors last week, as the state of Colorado is now taking steps to ensure cannabis infused edibles pass the same food safety inspections as any food product manufacturer or restaurant.

While state and local health authorities have not linked edibles to any confirmed cases of food-borne illnesses, the unannounced visits led to three product recalls and the destruction of tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of products, according to the Denver Post.

“Overall, I think there is a high level of compliance in the industry, that doesn’t mean we don’t come across critical violations from time to time,” Bob McDonald, Denver’s director of public health inspections told the Post.

Scott Henderson, food program supervisor for the Denver Department of Environmental Health said the city began applying regulation “in response to safety concern.”

Like most food items, without taking the necessary precautions, edible cannabis products can support the growth of potentially threatening bacteria. Officials are particularly concerned about the effects of plant-infused oils, many of which are used as ingredients in baking.

According to a report published by the Department of Health, most baked goods are safe if the cannabis concentrate or oil has been continually refrigerated before being added as an ingredient into a low-water product such as a cookie or brownie. Bacterial threat exists in products that have not been properly refrigerated or the concentrate has not been heated to an adequate temperature during extraction.

The report specifies Clostridium botulinum, as a primary concern. This bacterium, whose spores are present on plant material and in soil, is known to cause botulism. Spores are present in many plant material extractions and can survive cooking/pasteurization temperatures.

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacteria.

According to a report on botulism by Colorado State University, Colorado and other states in the West have higher incidences of botulism than the rest of the country due to the soil found in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific coast areas.

Several companies have been instructed to recall products, including Mile High Distributing, which had to recall 21 bottles of infused olive oil and 272 bottles of liquid THC drops both of which were being stored at room temperature, according to the report.

The company Home Baked has also been hit with a recall of their marijuana-infused baking mixes. They have since changed their procedures to be compliant with the department, however, that didn’t stop Co-owner James Ashkar from voicing his disapproval, calling the inspections a “witch-hunt” and saying the threat of botulism is “virtually non-existent.”

Both sides, edible-production companies and the state, note a major concern is simply lack of knowledge on the food safety of marijuana products.

According to the Department of Health report, “There is no known published research that addresses how pathogens grow in marijuana extractions and their derivatives. Until such information is available, it is the responsibility of [Public Health Inspection] to enforce existing food regulations to protect the health of consumers and to use existing research and food science to assess the risks of foods.”

Do you think food safety standards a serious issue in legal cannabis markets? Tell us in the comments below!

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