Sick or treat!
Children trick or treating in Cork this Halloween are at risk of consuming illegal cannabis edibles disguised as popular brands of jellies.
That’s according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) which is urging the public, especially parents and guardians to be extremely vigilant to the dangers of accidental consumption of such products.
The call comes after reports of the first cases of paediatric cannabis poisoning in Ireland with six children, all under the age of ten, hospitalised after accidentally consuming the products in 2021.
In addition, there have been reports of teenagers falling seriously ill, and in some cases requiring hospitalisation after having seizures and becoming unconscious from overdosing on cannabis edibles.
The products, which are intentionally packaged to resemble popular brands of jellies in order to avoid detection, have become increasingly available in Ireland in recent years.
The edibles are illegal food products containing the psychoactive cannabis component known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and come in many forms, but primarily jelly sweets.
Depending on the THC concentration, eating one of these jellies can mean ingesting a level of THC that is between five and ten times higher than that inhaled when smoking cannabis.
Unlike the almost immediate effects from smoking cannabis, there is at least a thirty-minute time delay from consumption of cannabis edibles until the initial effects are felt.
The FSAI said this can mean that, by the time a person has realised what they have ingested, they may have already eaten several of the jellies.
Cannabis toxicity can cause cognitive and motor impairment and in the case of children this can be extreme, lasting up to 36 hours after consumption.
Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI said the accidental consumption of edible cannabis products by children is extremely worrying.
She said: “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.”
“The prevalence of these edible products containing THC in communities and schools around the country is a growing cause for concern and parents and guardians should be extra vigilant during festivities such as Halloween,” added Dr Byrne.
The FSAI is now working with a number of other Government agencies including the Health Service Executive’s Environmental Health Service and the Public Analyst’s Laboratory, and an Garda Síochana in an effort to detect and stop the import of these illegal food products into Ireland.
THC is a controlled substance in Ireland with a zero tolerance under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977. In food, THC is considered a contaminant, with no permitted threshold in EU or Irish food law.