Athol Health Board preparing to enforce restrictions on use of cannabidiol in food

  • Assistant Health Agent Jane O’Brien, left, and Health Agent Deborah Vondal model the new grant-funded gear they will use when out in the field. “It’s important that we’re indentifiable,” Vondal said. Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

Staff Writer
Published: 7/17/2019 9:55:19 PM
Modified: 7/17/2019 9:55:11 PM

ATHOL – An emergency dispensing site drill, and cannabidiol (CBD) in food regulations are “coming down the pike” according to Health Agent Deborah Vondal.

At the Board of Health meeting Tuesday, Vondal shared a letter she received from the Department of Public Health (DPH), Bureau of Environmental Health’s Food Protection Program, stating that under current Massachusetts law and under current Food and Drug Administration guidance, cannabidiol (found in cannabis) may not be added to manufactured foods or to foods sold at retail, but can contain hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein, and hemp seed oil which are generally recognized as safe. The FDA issued a statement that CBD may not be added to food because it is an active ingredient in an FDA approved medication; medications may not be added to food.

The DPH says that the local Boards of Health can still enforce the retail food code and determine enforcement strategies for retail establishments in their jurisdictions. The Athol Board currently does not have a set protocol and is waiting for further guidance.

Vondal discussed plans for an Emergency Dispensing Site Drill. Per the DPH, each town is supposed to be ready for any biological event like the swine flu pandemic that occurred here about 10 years ago. For the past two years the drill site has been in Liberty Hall at the Town Hall.

“We have to prepare for the worst-case scenario,” with “real-time guidance” from the state, Vondal said. If something happened, it would be “all hands on deck,” she said. “Typically, we tell the public ‘don’t worry until we worry.’”

Vondal works with a consultant and has a whole plan as to how things will be set up for inoculations, including signage. Each year a little more gets added to the drill which is observed by consultants. A date has not yet been set.

The Special Commission on Local and Regional Public Health did an assessment of the current state of the Massachusetts Local Public Health System and found that Massachusetts has more local public health jurisdictions than any other state and that funding is inconsistent.

“There’s a lot of inequity with public health across the state,” Vondal said. For example, Lexington has more outreach than some other towns. Many Massachusetts cities and towns lack the capacity to meet rigorous national public health standards, according to the commission report. Most state municipalities operate standalone boards of health that cannot keep up with expanding duties.

Vondal issued a reminder for people to take preventative measures when going outside because evidence of the West Nile Virus was detected recently in mosquitoes collected in Boston. Wearing long sleeves, using an EPA-approved repellant and repairing window screens are some ways to be prepared.

Vondal and Assistant Health Agent Jane O’Brien showed the Board members their new gear with the town logo that will help make them more identifiable when they’re out in the field and at public events. The light jackets and shirts, made with sun safety material, and inspection bags were paid for by a grant from the Department of Public Health.

The next meeting will be held on Aug. 27 at 4 p.m., in the Board of Health office, Room 1 in the Athol Town Hall. For more information call the Board of Health office at 978-249-7934.

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