Shop pulls hemp pasta before police visit

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2007, 12:00am

Organic food store ThreeSixty removed spaghetti made from hemp flour from its shelves before police showed up yesterday to investigate whether the pasta contained any traces of illegal cannabis.

Even though the store insisted that it was not against the law to sell the product in Hong Kong, it withdrew the spaghetti from sale on Friday following inquiries by the South China Morning Post.

Irene Kwok, spokeswoman for the store in The Landmark mall in Central, said ThreeSixty had withdrawn the pasta from sale 'for the time being' but its food safety department had been assured by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department on Saturday that 'selling hemp was legal in Hong Kong'.

However, the department denied it had been approached by the store about the pasta.

A police spokeswoman said officers had inspected the shop but the product had already been withdrawn. 'We will continue to monitor the situation,' she added.

The spaghetti, made by German company Biona, is known as 'cannapasta', short for cannabis pasta, and its labelling states it contains organic durum semolina and 11 per cent organic hemp flour.

Hemp flour is made from ground seeds of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. Seeds do not contain the mind-altering substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

None of the spaghetti products has been taken for testing, so it remains unclear if the pasta contained any traces of THC.

Advocates of hemp insist that food containing the seed should not be associated with the drug marijuana and that it is beneficial to health, as the seeds are high in omega-3 oils. They say any trace amounts of THC are harmless, just like the trace amounts of opiates in poppy seeds.

Hemp products have had a rocky history in Hong Kong with the Body Shop being forced to withdraw hemp-seed items in 1998.