It has recently been reported by the Daily Mail that “Watchdogs are set to ban High Street CBD ‘cannabis’ oil for up to 18 months as experts probe whether it has any real health benefits”. As usual for this publication, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that this article is founded in reality, but then warped with mistruths.

Unfortunately, it looks almost certain that regulatory bodies have indeed taken steps to remove products containing cannabis extracts from Europe’s shelves, however, it has nothing to do with probing efficacy or potential health benefits. It all comes down to the EU classification of food products, and a bureaucratic system of categorisation known as the Novel Food Catalogue.


Protecting The Consumer

The Novel Food Catalogue was brought in across the EU as a way to regulate and authorise new types of food that emerge on the market. Its purpose was to protect consumers from unknown or potential harms these products may cause. Under the legislation, which is automatically ratified by all member states, products which are deemed novel are automatically banned from sale until authorisation is granted.

A Novel Food is described as “a type of food that does not have a significant history of consumption or is produced by a method that has not previously been used for food”.


Why Cannabis?

You may be wondering why cannabis, a crop which has been cultivated for millennia, has appeared on this list. The extraction methods currently used are ubiquitous throughout the extraction industries and have been deemed safe for many decades. It appears that in this ruling, the combination of ancient foodstuff extracted by industry standard processes to create CBD – essentially a ‘new’ product, is what has led to this change in designation. It is an unusual technicality which on the surface appears highly suspect given the known safety profile of CBD.

The vast majority of products currently on the market are likely to be affected, and until a clear statement is made by the Food Standards Agency, the Sword of Damocles hangs above the heads of manufacturers, retailers, and consumers alike.

Products included in the ‘novel’ category are defined as foods containing “extracts of Cannabis sativa L. and derived products containing cannabinoids”. That is, any product designed to be orally ingested, which contain any cannabinoid extract, or foods to which these extracts are added. This encompasses oils, capsules, concentrates, direct extracts, and almost all edible products using CBD isolate. Products that appear unaffected include e-liquids and vaping products, cosmetics, suppositories, and certain foodstuffs made directly from parts of the hemp plant (hemp seed loaves, hemp milk, hemp teas etc).


CBD In The United Kingdom

Many CBD retailers throughout the UK are now on high alert, and rightfully so. Should Trading Standards begin enforcing this ruling, which currently appears to be an option the Food Standards Agency are keeping open, it could decimate the industry until such time that consideration is made, and these products are officially recognised as safe.

We have reached out to a number of suppliers who offer affected products, and the general attitude currently is rather laid back, and almost complacent in their belief that no enforcement will come, or that the Cannabis Trades Association will swoop in and save the day. It is an understandable reaction given the unbelievable nature of the situation the industry finds itself in.

One redeeming factor that gives everyone hope, is that the FSA has not yet published any official statement regarding their decision to enforce or not. Their website is unusually absent of new information or official statements, only one small update has been made to their Novel Food guidance, including the below quote:

“The FSA are considering the way forward in light of this clarification at EU level. We are meeting with relevant industry representative bodies, local authorities and other stakeholders to clarify how to achieve compliance in the marketplace in a proportionate manner.”

Long-Term Implications

It seems like the FSA are aware of the waves this ruling will create and are looking at options to minimise the impact on what is now a multi-million-pound industry. We have approached the agency for comment and clarification on their intentions going forward and will post updates as they come through.

For now, we find our industry in relative unease, with thousands of livelihoods at stake, and all waiting with bated breath for the announcement that could make or break the CBD market in the UK.

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