As the world of marijuana infused food products gets bigger and more people want to eat their medicine rather than smoke it, marijuana infusing chefs try to get more creative and make something that no one else is making in the medible market.
Food products like beef jerky and ice cream are highly regulated in this country by the FDA, USDA and local health departments. When you go to your local 7-11 and buy a stick of beef jerky, take a look at the label and you will see the “made in a USDA facility” stamp on it. When you buy ice cream from the supermarket you can feel somewhat safe in knowing that it was made in a manufacturing plant that properly processed the milk to ensure no pathogenic deadly bacteria is growing in there. The government regulates these food products for a reason, because if they are made incorrectly they can easily become contaminated and cause serious illness or even death.
When I visit local dispensaries and see that they are selling marijuana infused beef jerky and ice cream I have concerns. I wonder if the meat was dried properly to a water activity below 0.85 and I wonder where the milk and cream used to make the ice cream came from and if the manufacturer has a HACCP plan (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) and a proper Listeria testing program in place. Recently a well-known ice cream company Jeni’s (www.jenis.com) found listeria contamination in their production facility and had to have a major recall. Millions of dollars were lost and luckily no one got sick. They are now working on implementing a proper Listeria testing protocol to ensure that they catch any contamination before the product leaves the manufacturing plant. I wonder if the ice cream companies making marijuana infused frozen desserts are aware of this potential issue and what they are doing to ensure that no Listeria gets into their production line.
Dried meat products like processed meat sticks and beef jerky are regulated by both the USDA and local state health departments. Even though beef jerky and dried meat has been made and consumed by people for ages, there are still some safety regulations that must be followed to ensure that no pathogens or spoilage bacteria grow. Some of those regulations include:
- A minimum dehydration temperature of 145°F (165°F for poultry) to inhibit pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms
- A final water activity level that falls well below 0.85 to prevent pathogen growth
- A final water activity level between 0.60 and 0.70 to inhibit spoilage bacteria, yeast and mold and to extend shelf life
I recommend that all medible food makers only make non-potentially hazardous foods like dry cookies, crisp rice treats and candy like marshmallows and gummy bears. These types of products are lower risk and the high sugar in the food prevent bacteria from growing. If your state has a cottage food industry, you can find a list of non-potentially hazardous foods on their public health website. Here is a list of California non-hazardous foods: www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/Documents/fdbCFOfoodslist.pdf
Unfortunately, the marijuana food industry is not getting the proper and crucial support it needs from the USDA, FDA and local health departments. Food safety is not intuitive and is more involved than washing hands and taking a safe serve online class. If you don’t know how to implement a HACCP plan and if you don’t have a water activity unit to ensure that your beef jerky has an Aw below 0.85 then you could be putting dangerous food products on the market. Pathogens in food are dangerous to everyone but the very old, very young and immune-compromised community are the most susceptible to food borne illness.