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CBD:  Novel food or an established ingredient?

The European Commission is fighting to reclassify cannabidiol (CBD) and other hemp-derived foods as a “novel foods”. If they are successful the reclassification would mean that it would no longer be legal to sell any foodstuffs including CBD in Europe without authorisation.

The term ‘novel food’ covers any food or ingredient that has become widely used after 1997 and new products have to prove they’re safe and it is this - the safety of adding cannabinoids to food and supplements  - that has been questioned by the European Commission’s Working Group of Novel Foods in Europe.  If their final opinion (due in March 2019) on the amendment supports reclassification, it would include any extracts from cannabis and hemp, any other plant containing cannabinoids and the products they are in.  And this is not solely a European development; similar strides are being taken in the USA spearheaded by crackdowns in New York and Maine.

The news will be a blow to the thousands of people who use CBD oil as a health supplement or to help with anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain and joint pain.  It’ll also affect the numerous high street stockists including Holland & Barrett, particularly as the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) has intimated they will ask trading standards officers to remove products from sale until it is approved, a process that could take up to 18 months.

However, the European Commission’s views are not shared by everyone.  The European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) is considering allowing applications for novel foods that contain up to 130 mg as long as the supplements are for adults and if their proposition is accepted, products should be available by late summer.  And the World Health Organisation seems to agree recently stating publicly they felt CBD is “generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”

Somewhat predictably The Industrial Hemp Association of Europe (EIHA) has also been outspoken regarding the possible reclassification.  They feel that hemp extracts are proven to be safe given they have been used widely for the last 80 years and, more pointedly, had already been recognised as ‘ingredients’ in products like beer by the European Commission since 1998. 

The picture is further obscured by the uncertainty around Brexit.  While a novel food would have to be authorised by the European Commission, what happens with regards to UK sales would need to be assessed and agreed following the UJK’s departure from the EU.

If you think you or your business may be affected by the reclassification of CBD as a novel food, please call us today on 020 7792 5649 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

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