GenCanna Global is the first American hemp manufacturer to receive two key audit certifications that are used in the manufacturing of food and beverage, company officials announced Wednesday.

Receiving the Brand Reputation Compliance Global Standard for Food Safety certificate and the Current Good Manufacturing Practices certificate positions the Winchester-based company for the explosive growth expected in the CBD (cannabidiol) industry.

Major food manufacturers interested in using CBD in their products look for the certifications when making purchasing decisions, according to GenCanna officials.

"As a company, we have always been focused on quality," said Alex Green, GenCanna's chief strategy officer. "We've been relentless around establishing a high quality supply chain that can produce a safe, on-site, high quality product. This certification is an evolution of that."

The Food and Drug Administration held a hearing May 31 to discuss developing a framework for the use of CBD in consumer products, including food and beverage.

"They wanted to hear from the industry so they could start to weigh on how they want to regulate CBD-based products," Green said. "We don't know where the FDA is going to land, but what we do know is they said they are going to have a specific regulatory structure.

"If we are able to stick to the strictest standards possible, then we'll be prepared to meet whatever that requirement is," he said.

Coca-Cola is among the national manufacturers interested in CBD.

"When Coca-Cola said they wanted to put CBD in beverages, I would say they sounded a lot like Mondelez, which recently said on one of their earnings calls that they'd be putting CBD in everything from Cadbury Eggs to, I believe, Chips Ahoy," Green said.

"Everybody is looking to put CBD in products because it is very popular right now. They know it is prevalent in the culture and folks are looking for all types of ways to diversify their product offerings."

The certifications will increase opportunities not only for the Winchester facility, but the ones in Graves County and Paducah, in the former AmerisourceBergen facility downtown.

"The BRC is kind of the gold standard, if you will, in certification. It is definitely the most rigorous and prepares us to enter into the global market," according to Chelsea Pipkin, GenCanna director of quality assurance and food safety.

"All of our facilities will be operating at the highest standards and go through the same process in becoming BRC compliant."

Plans for the Paducah facility are still in development, which will include research and development, as well as a retail presence, according to Green.

"We're going to make that facility a flagship for us. We'll have quite a bit of activity there," he said.

"We think hemp as an agricultural commodity is a great thing for the country because we can put American farmers to work on a crop that provides good returns for them," Green said. "In addition, we love the economic impact that it has in the region from Winchester all the way to Paducah.

"We are 100 percent in support of farmers. We're going to continue to make sure Kentucky farmers are given opportunities within this industry."

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