The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has issued a warning about jelly sweets containing cannabis ahead of Halloween.
The agency urged people to be vigilant due to the dangers of consumption, particularly by children, of products such as jelly sweets containing the psychoactive cannabis component known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Products are packaged to resemble popular brands of jellies to avoid detection. In the United States these kinds of candies are commonly referred to as dummies.
Officials said there was a growing availability in Ireland of food products containing significant amounts of THC. In food, THC is considered a contaminant, with no permitted threshold in EU or Irish law.
People falling sick
This year, six children under the age of 10 have been hospitalized having accidentally consumed THC-containing products which looked like normal jelly sweets. There have also been reports of teenagers falling ill, and in some cases requiring hospitalization, after having seizures and becoming unconscious from overdosing on cannabis edibles.
In May, Surrey Police in England spoke out about the dangers of edibles after four children were taken to hospital. Three of them were vomiting uncontrollably and falling in and out of consciousness. In June, a man and a 15-year-old boy needed hospital treatment after eating cannabis edibles. Surrey Police arrested a 20-year-old man in connection with the incident.
The Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) had previously warned about the production, online marketing and sale of cannabis edibles by organized crime groups. These products contain irregular amounts of THC, which can be toxic in high doses. Cannabis edibles are packaged to mimic branded sweets and fizzy drinks, making it more likely to be consumed in large quantities and lead to children being hospitalized.
In Vietnam this month, 13 children were taken to hospital after suspected of having candy containing cannabis, according to media reports.
Often eat several at once
Depending on the THC concentration, eating one of the jellies can mean ingesting a level of THC that is five to 10 times higher than that inhaled when smoking cannabis.
Irish officials are especially concerned that children are not aware of the dangers and if they have a bag of the jellies, they will rarely eat just one, so overdosing is likely.
There is usually a 30-minute delay from consumption of cannabis edibles until initial effects are felt. This poses a serious risk to those who have eaten the jellies who might believe they need to have several to feel an effect, only to later find they have overdosed.
Cannabis toxicity can cause cognitive and motor impairment and in children this can be extreme, lasting up to 24 to 36 hours after consumption.
Dr. Pamela Byrne, FSAI chief executive, said the accidental consumption of edible cannabis products by children is extremely worrying.
“We know adults and/or teenagers are ordering these illegal products from online or other illegal sources for their own personal use. However, they often have no understanding of the real health dangers of these products and are careless or reckless in putting young children’s health at risk by allowing them access to these products,” she said.
The FSAI, the Health Service Executive’s Environmental Health Service and Public Analyst’s Laboratory in Dublin; Irish police; Revenue’s Customs Service; Forensic Science Ireland; the State Laboratory and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland are trying to detect and stop imports of the illegal food products into Ireland.
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