The legalization of cannabis in a growing number of U.S. states and Canadian provinces continues to raise concerns about a variety of food safety hazards, including pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli.

“There are many food safety hazards associated with cannabis production and distribution that could put the public at risk, but are not yet adequately controlled,” Steven Burton of Icicle Technologies Inc. said earlier this month.

For example, pests in production areas can cause pathogenic contamination of cannabis products. But, cannabis operations often are not subject to federal pest control regulations that cover food and pharmaceutical operations.

Each week the FDA makes public warning letters that have been sent to food and drug manufacturers that have violated food safety procedures and controls, including the preparation, packaging, or holding conditions of products. However, because marijuana products are not legal under federal law, those regulations are not applied.

Another hazard involves the issue of product contamination from the employees during the various stages of the production process. The stakes for cross-contamination are the highest when employees are handling the product, making proper employee training and personnel hygiene policies should be is place at all marijuana growing and production facilities, Burton contends.

Unless cannabis products such as edibles can be treated the same as other food products and have a comprehensive food safety program including plans, procedures, training, monitoring and verification, hazards can be expected, according to Burton.