Technology now exists to ensure that the better tolerated THC delta-9 can be delivered consistently in edible product formats.
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Explore This IssueJune/July 2018
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Ironically, the biggest health and safety concerns around cannabinoid delivery are interwoven with the most common former delivery of those ingredients—which was combustion or smoking. “Lungs are for breathing; ingesting anything via combustion and inhalation into the pulmonary system appears to be unhealthy,” Bunka comments. “The gastrointestinal system, on the other hand, is for delivering nutrition from food into the bloodstream.
“Regulation in states such as Colorado and California are the best things to have happened to the cannabis industry in 100 years,” Bunka continues. “Older, poor practices such as lack of cleanliness in food production areas are being replaced by modern food manufacturing processes. Now that cannabinoid ingredients can be properly analyzed at laboratories without fear of black helicopters and SWAT teams on the roof, companies can reliably check that cannabinoid ingredients are free of pesticides and herbicides. This simple evolution of good practices is revolutionizing the industry and raising standards.”
Another manufacturing concern stems from the fact that a large amount of cannabis is grown indoors, which generally requires pesticide usage. “This can allow for residual toxicity to be in the end product,” Dr. Titus says.
Solutions to Ensure Safe Edibles
Edible products are one of the best ways to deliver consistent and reliable cannabis experiences because of the nature of plant-based ingredients. “Every plant produces slightly different levels of strength of active ingredients, even when plants are cloned,” Bunka says. This inconsistency from plant to plant and batch to batch can best be dealt with by processing large amounts of plant matter in a single manufacturing operation—once turned into a liquid oil, any number of tiny samples taken from a large vessel of oil will have effectively identical composition. This allows food manufacturers to predictably deliver a consistent product. Small scale production prior to legalization rarely achieved this.
For the same reasons, these samples can be analyzed at the laboratory for unwanted herbicides or heavy metals and rejected prior to use in a food product. “It was previously impossible to take samples from each of hundreds or thousands of different plants to ensure they were all safe,” Bunka says. But contamination issues can be a thing of the past in the cannabis industry with proper regulation and monitoring with standard operating procedures.
3D Printed Foods
Simply put, 3D printing involves creating a 3D item from a graphic rendering by printing on X, Y, and Z axis instead of just X and Y like traditional computer printers, resulting in a three-dimensional object, explains Darryl L. Holliday, PhD, CRC, assistant professor of food science, director of the food science program, and department chair for biological and physical sciences, University of Holy Cross, New Orleans.
All 3D printers use some type of material for building the 3D printed item’s shape and structure. The most common material is a plastic filament, but food companies work with food staples such as sugar, chocolate, pasta dough, cheese, and peanut butter.
Dr. Holliday’s research laboratory uses ground beef as its printing medium because of its universal appeal. “My research has shown that not only can firm objects be produced, but that by using the right medium and printing capabilities, we can print foods that are more traditional such as hamburgers,” he says.
3D Loaded with Advantages
The main benefit of 3D printing is customization, Dr. Holliday says. Currently, manufacturers and food professionals can use 3D printing to create shapes and textures that traditional manufacturing methods cannot duplicate. Additionally, switching from printing one piece of item A to one piece of item B is much faster with 3D printing than traditional manufacturing. However, traditional manufacturing is much more efficient at mass producing the same item. Furthermore, 3D printing is an efficient method for mock-up items such as parts, packaging, and food concepts because molds don’t have to be made and lines shut down for research and development.