Hawaii finds kava beverages generally recognized as safe

February 8, 2024

The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) has issued a memorandum finding that the traditionally prepared ‘awa (commonly known as kava) beverage, made using the root of the noble variety of the ‘awa plant (Piper methysticum), is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) due to its common use prior to January 1, 1958. In doing so, the DOH has taken the position that a 2020 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) memorandum evaluating kava products “erroneously classified the traditional ‘awa beverage … as unsafe for human consumption.”
To document the history of traditional kava use in Hawaii, the DOH memorandum refers to a 2016 technical report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), which identified its long and documented history of food use throughout the South Pacific. The DOH memorandum also cites literature collected by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (UHCTAHR) documenting the common use and traditional preparation of the beverage specifically in Hawaii prior to 1958.
The Hawaii DOH memorandum is available here. For its attachments, including the FAO/WHO and UHCTAHR documents, contact Robert Marriott, AHPA's Director of Regulatory Affairs, at




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