The Food Standards Agency sets CBD industry a deadline

Food standards and CBD - what’s the connection? Since cannabis was legalised for medical use in 2018, the novel food status of CBD extract was confirmed soon after in January 2019. A report released just last week by The Food Standards Agency, highlights that any CBD products must have an authorised application to remain on store shelves after 31 March 2021.


CBD - a novel food?

In the UK over the past couple of years, products containing CBD (Cannabidiol) extracts have become readily available on our highstreets in a range of forms including oils, confectionary, baked goods and drinks. There has been great public interest in the therapeutic benefits of CBD, which are often marketed as “wellness” products. Able to be purchased without the need for a prescription, CBD products have become more of a supplement than a treatment - justifying the label ‘novel food’. Manufacturers of any CBD products must be conscious to not make any medical claims on their labelling.


Under the Novel Food Regulations, foods or ingredients which don’t have a history of consumption before May 1997 should be evaluated and authorised before they can be placed on any shelves on the market.


The deadline to get authorised

The CBD industry has until March 31st 2021 to prepare for the new legislation. All novel foods must have applications authorised and accepted to continue to be sold in stores across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


This new process will ensure any CBD products being sold are meeting legal standards, will not contain more than the legal amount of CBD and will abide by the Government’s Committee on Toxicity standards.


Emily Miles, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency, said: “CBD products are widely available on the high street but are not properly authorised. The actions that we’re taking today are a pragmatic and proportionate step in balancing the protection of public health with consumer choice. It’s now up to industry to supply this information so that the public can be reassured that CBD is safe and what it says it is.”


The FSA is advising those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking any medication not to consume CBD products. Healthy adults are also advised to think carefully before taking CBD and the FSA recommends no more than 70mg per day unless under medical direction.


Our role

Despite much needed regulation of the CBD industry to protect public safety, there are some key points to consider in this new guidance. Firstly, it is questionable whether a recommended total daily dose of 70mg CBD is enough to achieve therapeutic effect for some people (who may require much higher doses of several hundred milligrams CBD daily).


The advice to not combine CBD with other medical products could be viewed as over-cautious when consideration is given to the excellent safety profile of CBD and its low pharmacodynamic interaction.


Secondly, a novel food application process is costly and may disproportionately impact smaller / artisan businesses selling high quality and correctly labelled products. A likely scenario therefore is that the CBD sector within the UK could be monopolised by larger companies who can afford the various regulatory and financial steps to produce novel food products, ultimately leading to a lower range of products and less choice for consumers.


Not too long ago, Dr Dani Gordon featured in the Business Insider, discussing CBD products and said: “Sometimes you have to dig more into the nitty-gritty of the ingredients. Labelling criteria is becoming stricter, so more consumers can understand what a CBD isolate product is, and what is not.”


As predicted, the new legislation will ensure labelling is sound and products are valid for retail. Read the full article here.


The Primary Care Cannabis Network aims to expand the knowledge of cannabis-based medical treatments and is focussed on academic research, education, key-papers and open discussions. We focus specifically on the needs of GPs and as more GPs across the UK reach out to the Primary Care Cannabis Network for more information on Medical Cannabis, a bigger community is forming which will enable GPs to confidently work together and with specialists to understand the various regulatory pathways that exist within the UK.


Moving forwards into 2020, the PCCN will host a series of events on Medical Cannabis and will also be key-note speakers at other seminars within industry. For more information on these events or to be kept up-to-date with the latest news and member meeting, subscribe to our Journal Club today.