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German government sides with EIHA on CBD ‘novel food’ question

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The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) said it has achieved “groundbreaking success in the discussion about the generally permissible trade and sale of CBD-containing products,” as the German Federal Government and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) has endorsed the Association’s view that “foodstuffs containing parts of the hemp plant are in principle not ‘novel’ foods under EU regulations.”

The development, announced in a statement today, is significant in light of European stakeholders’ continuing efforts to clarify rules regarding hemp extracts, including CBD, in the EU. Germany is the EU’s biggest market.

‘Important milestone’

“Thus, hemp food products made from traditionally produced extracts with the natural full spectrum of the cannabinoids contained in the hemp plant are not novel foods,” Daniel Kruse, EIHA’s President, said of the BMEL endorsement. “For the German hemp food industry this statement by the government and the ministry is an important milestone.”

EIHA said it now remains to be seen whether another German agency, the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL), will amend and correct a previous publication about CBD that EIHA and German stakeholders have argued is incorrect.

The controversy was triggered when BVL published “Food supplements with cannabidiol (CBD),” in March 2019, indicating the agency was “currently not aware of any case in which cannabidiol (CBD) could be found in foodstuffs, i.e. also in food supplements.” In essence, this assessment by the BVL holds that all hemp foodstuffs should fall under Novel Food rules — a food safety regime that requires a costly and time consuming registration process. Foods in Europe are considered “novel” if they were not consumed in member states before 1997.

What will BVL do?

“It now only remains to be seen whether the BVL will finally amend and correct the content of its previous blanket and undifferentiated publication on this topic of 20.03.2019, which has already led to avoidable irritation and legal errors on the part of many state and local authorities, as well as in some cases individual courts in Germany,” EIHA said in the release. “It also remains to be seen whether the BVL will now agree to a meeting of experts, which EIHA has already requested several times.”

EIHA has repeatedly argued that leaves and flowers of industrial hemp plants are not Novel Foods, and should be regulated by the existing rules on food and food supplements, and that extracts from hemp plants legally grown in Europe and produced via traditional extraction technologies should not be considered Novel Food. The Association has said that only genetically modified plants and synthetic material should be considered Novel Foods.

“The BVL must differentiate between extracts with the natural full spectrum of cannabinoids contained in the hemp plant on the one hand and products enriched with isolates or with cannabinoids on the other. Otherwise there will be even more uncertainty for the hemp food industry and consumers in Germany,” EIHA said.

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