Food Standards Agency sets deadline to UK CBD industry

Businesses to apply for novel food authorisation to keep CBD oil products on shelves

The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has set a deadline of 31 March 2021 for CBD businesses to submit valid novel food authorisation applications. After 31 March next year, only products that have submitted a valid application will be allowed to remain on the market.

The authorisation process ensures novel foods meet legal standards, including safety and content.

Local authorities enforcing the novel food legislation have been advised that businesses should be able to sell their existing CBD products during this time provided they are not incorrectly labelled, are not unsafe to eat and do not contain substances that fall under drugs legislation.

The Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) has welcomed a route to compliance for the industry and its members; however, the organisation insisted on the opinion that natural (not isolates or synthetic forms) CBD products do not fall under the scope of the Novel Food schedule.

The authorisation process ensures novel foods meet legal standards, including safety and content

“The CTA fully supports regulation as it ensures consumer safety and gives clarity to the processes required for its members’ products to remain on in stores across the country. We are continuing a full review process including legal aspects and avenues into the current and proposed regulations for CBD in the UK, whilst maintaining close relationships with relevant authorities and stakeholders. In reality, not all members will be affected by the proposed legislative changes,” reads a statement.

Established in 2016, the CTA is made up of over 1,200 members and 6,500 sellers from 35 countries. CTA members sold over £2.7bn worth of products in 43 countries last year in the cannabinoid industries.

Safety guidance to consumers

The UK authority has also issued safety guidance for vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, breastfeeding or anybody taking any medication not to consume CBD products. The advice for healthy adults is to take no more than 70mg a day, about 28 drops of 5% CBD, unless under medical direction.

This new precautionary advice is based on recent findings by the government’s Committee on Toxicity (COT).

Professor Alan Boobis, Chair of the Committee on Toxicity, explained: “My committee has reviewed the evidence on CBD food products and found evidence there are potential adverse health effects from the consumption of these products. We are particularly concerned about pregnant or breastfeeding women and people on medication.

“We don’t know enough to be sure about such a risk, but I am pleased with the sensible and pragmatic approach the FSA is taking. The committee will continue to keep these products under review in the months ahead,” Boobis added.

CBD as a food supplement should not be administered in high daily doses

The CTA said it agrees that CBD as a food supplement should not be administered in high daily doses (above 200mg as approved in 2016 by the MHRA), and consumers should always seek approved medical guidance if taking other medications or during pregnancy. “We also maintain our position that CTA members' products are compliant and continue to pose no safety concerns to those consuming within the set guidelines,” the CTA explained.

Commenting on today’s FSA announcement, community pharmacist Sultan Dajani, said: “This is great news for my customers. The reason for the move of CBD products to the EU Novel Food Catalogue, which affects some cannabidiol (CBD) products (not medicines), is because food and health businesses have not been able to show there has been a significant history of consumption of these products in food and food supplements prior to May 1997 in the EU.”

CBD products in pharmacy and healthcare retail settings make it clear that consumers should always check with a healthcare practitioner

Dajani noted that reputable companies selling CBD products in pharmacy and healthcare retail settings make it clear that consumers should always check with a healthcare practitioner first before buying a CBD product if they are on medication or are pregnant. “As a result, this guidance we have already been following and will be of no surprise to healthcare professionals like myself.”

CBD products sold as food supplements today and up to March 2021 have been and will continue to be governed within a tight regulatory framework that all supplements are governed by. “This regulatory status ensures consumer safety and all packaging and information adheres to all food supplement laws,” Dajani said.

“Under the Novel Food Regulations, foods or food ingredients that do not have a history of consumption need to be evaluated. Having said that, the World Health Organisation has noted no safety fears with the consumption of CBD products,” Dajani concluded.

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