Hemp Protein cookies on menu once laws change 


Three-time Coast to Coast winner and nutritionist Emily Miazga found a recipe for success with her Em’s Power Cookies.

Now the multisport champion and West Coast business owner is aiming to serve up a new treat – hemp protein cookies.

With hemp having been approved for use as food in Australia, and New Zealand expected to follow later this year, Miazga plans to launch batches on both sides of the Tasman.

She is talking to New Zealand and Australian retailers about stocking shelves with hemp protein cookies after legislation goes through here. Response had been “positive and supportive”, she said.

Miazga, who has a Master of Science in dietetics and nutrition, said hemp is a “powerfully nutritious superfood”.

It is naturally gluten-free, vegan, low in sugar, high in protein and fibre, has a number of vitamins and minerals and a correct balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, she said.

And Miazga said customers shouldn’t be confused between hemp used in making foods and other varieties of cannabis which have higher concentrations of the mind-altering ingredient THC.

She wanted to “put a really clear message out there that hemp is a superfood, it’s like a vegetable”. Hemp food “has nothing to do with cannabis [as a drug]”.

It is not possible to get a psychoactive effect from low-THC hemp-seed foods, a Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) spokesperson said.

Food safety authorities in New Zealand are looking to follow Australia to allow low-THC hemp seed to be used in food by changing regulations under the Food Act, the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Medicines Act.

“It is anticipated that, subject to Cabinet agreement, amendments to Food Regulations 2015 and the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 will be in place by the end of the year,” the MPI spokesperson said.

Miazga said hemp is a pest-resistant, environmentally friendly crop and can be used for multiple purposes including food, fibre and clothing.

It offered an economic opportunity and could create new jobs. “It’s a pretty big industry world wide, and New Zealand can certainly be a big winner in it.”

Miazga, 44, first started baking nutritious cookies as a “sporty kid” growing up in Saskatchewan, Canada. “I called them my power cookies because they just gave me power and helped to energise me.”

She went to university in Minnesota on a track and cross-country scholarship and practised as a registered dietitian in Oregon before setting off to travel in 2002 and discovering multisport racing.

In 2004 she entered the Coast to Coast, a 243km run, cycle and kayak from the west coast to the east coast of the South Island. She went on to become first woman home in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

Miazga showed her gratitude to Kiwis whose homes she stayed at doing her initial race by baking them cookies, which they so enjoyed they suggested she should start selling them.

Determining to stay and “immerse myself in the beautiful nature wonder of New Zealand”, she started Em’s Power Cookies in 2004.

She used her cookies as a tasty boost for her Coast to Coast races. “You have to fuel yourself to get through 13 hours of gruelling racing.”

Other competitors started using the energy snacks, Miazga said. Em’s Power Cookies has sponsored the Coast to Coast since 2007, she said.

The sustained-energy cookies are sports nutrition products. The planned hemp protein cookies will also be aimed at customers who are “into clean eating and … ethical foods”.

Miazga no longer races but having added 4000-5000 native trees to her 32-acre property north of Westport, she keeps fit “scrub cutting and tree planting”.

Drug Free Sport New Zealand chief executive Nick Paterson said hemp prospectively being used in food or food products here was “new ground”.

“Natural and synthetic cannabinoids are on the [World Anti-Doping Agency’s] Prohibited List and are prohibited in-competition,” he said.

A Carboxy-THC level above 150ng/ml in urine may result in an anti-doping rule violation or “positive test”.

Drug Free Sport New Zealand was not able to say what quantity of hemp potentially allowed to be sold here as food would need to be consumed before an athlete might return a sample above the permitted threshold.

“Ultimately the responsibility lies with the athlete as to what is in their system, but I would note that this is new ground, obviously, and is not yet allowed in NZ.”