CBD stakeholders in Europe say the UK Food Standard Agency’s (FSA) recent warning to producers and consumers is a step in the right direction for the sector. Among other declarations, the FSA statement provides that food containing CBD that is derived from legally grown hemp via traditional extraction technologies may continue to be sold for the next year pending submission of papers under the EU’s Novel Food regime.
The FSA guidance instructs UK companies to submit their NF applications by March 31, 2021. Companies whose products have not submitted their applications by that date will have them removed from sale. Novel Foods rules in Europe, which comprise a safety mechanism for consumers, apply to those food products that were not commonly consumed on the continent before 1997.
Any company submitting their products individually or as part of a consortium by March 31, 2021 may keep their products on the shelves over the next year, during approval process, according to the FSA statement.
The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) is organizing a consortium of producers to support firms seeking approval. “We support the rationale behind FSA’s statement and look forward to our meetings early next month to discuss the EIHA consortium application in detail,” EIHA Managing Director Lorenza Romanese said. EIHA’s members agreed last year to submit a joint consortium application that will include a range of CBD extracts to both the UK’s FSA and the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA), Romanese said.
“However, we are disappointed that the FSA does not appear to support EIHA’s position that for many centuries cannabinoid rich hemp foods and hemp extracts containing CBD have been extensively consumed across Europe and therefore low concentration CBD products should not be considered as ‘novel’ based on FSA’s own definition,” Romanese said.
The FSA statement also suggested that consumers limit themselves to a maximum of 70mg of CBD per day, and advised pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and those taking other medication refrain from taking CBD entirely.
“While EIHA’s official daily intake recommendation is a maximum 160 mg in food supplements, we consider this a workable compromise,” said Catherine Wilson, EIHA Vice President and Managing Director at UK-based CBD seller CannaWell.
The sector has been campaigning to keep low concentration and low intake CBD products recognized as a traditional food, which would absolve such products of the expensive and lengthy process of qualifying those formulas for categorization as Novel Foods.
While such products are widely available in the UK, they are not properly authorized, FSA said.
“The CBD industry must provide more information about the safety and contents of these products . . . or the products will be taken off the shelves,” FSA Chief Executive Emily Miles said of next year’s deadline.
“The actions that we’re taking today are a pragmatic and proportionate step in balancing the protection of public health with consumer choice,” Miles said. “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.”
Confusion & recalls
While national authorities — such as the FSA in the UK — issue guidance based on EU Novel Foods rules, country-by-country it is local authorities who enforce the guidelines at the direction of national agencies. Lack of clarity in EU guidance has continually caused confusion and prompted product recalls all across the Union.
EIHA extensively documented the presence of hemp extracts in food after a year-long research project in 2019. The Association contends that extracts from leaves and flowers of industrial hemp plants are not Novel Foods, and should be regulated by the existing rules on food and food supplements. Extracts derived via traditional extraction technologies, from hemp plants legally grown in Europe should not fall under Novel Foods rules, EIHA has said, with only genetically modified plants, isolates and synthetic materials falling under the Novel Foods regime and subject to the application process.