UK rules CBD is novel food, sets one year deadline for regulatory approval

UK food regulators have stood by their threat to remove products containing CBD from sale if businesses do not gain special authorisation, and have set March 31, 2021 as the deadline for applications.

The British cannabis industry has been waiting more than a year for clarity.

In a Thursday release, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said after that date, only products which have submitted a valid application will be allowed to remain on shelves. The authorisation process ensures novel foods meet legal standards, including on safety and content.

Local authorities enforce the novel food legislation, the FSA said, and councils 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.

In addition, the FSA advised 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, the FSA said, recommending no more than 70mg a day (about 28 drops of 5 percent CBD) unless under medical direction.

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

“CBD products are widely available on the high street but are not properly authorised,” said Emily Miles, chief executive of the Food Standards Agency. “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.”

Professor Alan Boobis, chair of the Committee on Toxicity said his committee had reviewed the evidence on CBD food products and found evidence there were potential adverse health effects from the consumption of these products.

“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,” Professor Boobis said. “The committee will continue to keep these products under review in the months ahead.”

UK law firm Mackrell.Solicitors have been heavily involved in discussions with both the FSA and European regulators over the novel food issue.

“We anticipated and welcome this morning’s announcement by the FSA that they will be more proactive in regulating the growing CBD market going forward,” said Nigel Rowley, managing partner at Mackrell.Solicitors. “The lack of clarity and certainty has always been a cause for concern for our clients and the industry as a whole.”

Rowley said strong regulation and a clear regulatory regime “can only be positive” for responsible businesses in the sector.

“Questions still remain, particularly in relation to EU Novel Foods authorisation, and whether every business needs to apply or whether a blanket authorisation would cover each end-form of CBD,” said Rowley.  “We will be seeking clarification from the FSA on this and report back to the industry once a greater degree of clarification has been obtained.”

Robert Sidebottom, director of the Hemp and CBD Expo and a leader in the industry added while the statement had been a long time coming, consumer safety statement from the FSA was a long-time coming, regardless of the views on CBD and novel foods, consumer safety is paramount.

“It should act as a clarion call to the sector to work together, education and advice is now more than ever critical for those working in the cannabis space, I encourage everyone to attend our event at the end of this month and talk to and listen to the leading of legal, trade and medical practitioners who are presenting,” Sidebottom said.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced that food and supplements containing CBD will have to be registered by March 2021 or they could be removed from sale next year.

This is a significant development for the industry and the dedicated Cannabis Law team at Mackrell.Solicitors will be working with the industry to ensure they get the answers they require.

Nigel Rowley, Managing Partner at Mackrell.Solicitors, said: “We anticipated and welcome this morning’s announcement by the FSA that they will be more proactive in regulating the growing CBD market going forward. The lack of clarity and certainty has always been a cause for concern for our clients and the industry as a whole.

“Our initial view is that strong regulation and a clear regulatory regime can only be positive for those responsible businesses that make up the majority of the industry.

“Questions still remain, particularly in relation to EU Novel Foods authorisation, and whether every business needs to apply or whether a blanket authorisation would cover each end-form of CBD. We will be seeking clarification from the FSA on this and report back to the industry once a greater degree of clarification has been obtained.”

Robert Sidebottom, Director of the Hemp and CBD Expo and a leader in the industry also spoke with the Cannabis Law team. He said: “This statement from the FSA has been a long-time coming, regardless of the views on CBD and Novel Foods it is consumer safety that is paramount.

“It should act as a clarion call to the sector to work together, education and advice is now more than ever critical for those working in the cannabis space, I encourage everyone to attend our event at the end of this month and talk to and listen to the leading of legal, trade and medical practitioners who are presenting.”

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Mark Taylor


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