On 13 February 2020, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced that businesses selling food products with CBD must submit valid novel food authorisation applications by 31 March 2021. Failure to do so once the deadline has passed will result in the removal of such products from the market. This deadline only applies to businesses in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Food Standards Scotland has its own laws on novel foods.
Local authorities have been given the responsibility of enforcing the regulation. They have also been told that businesses currently selling CBD food products can continue their trade as long as the products are properly labelled, safe to eat, and don’t contain substances legally deemed as drugs.
There is guidance from the FSA on enforcement, but local authorities have the final say regarding specific decisions based on the circumstances of each case.
Along with the updates on CBD food product legislation, the FSA advised against consuming CBD products for pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, or those taking any medication. Healthy adults were also cautioned from using CBD products.
Lastly, the FSA recommends not having more than 70 mg of CBD a day unless under medical direction (70 mg is about 28 drops of 5% CBD). The recommendation comes from the latest research by the government’s Committee on Toxicity (COT).
People who have a medical prescription for CBD, however, are not affected by the announcement.
Undoubtedly this will have a widespread impact on the CBD industry.
This guide will tackle the facts from the announcement, the changes from the current CBD legislation, what products will be affected, and the implications on businesses and consumers.
The Law on CBD Food Products
CBD extracts or isolates are what goes into CBD food products. They come from hemp and cannabis plants. The extraction process eliminates or reduces the presence of other chemical elements, differentiating them from hemp and cannabis products.
The government considers CBD extracts as “novel food”. This is because there is no history of consumption of CBD extracts before May 1997. The legal distinction was only made in January 2019, and this status puts such products directly under the authority of the FSA.
CBD extracts can be found in the Novel Food Catalogue. It is important to remember that being listed in the Novel Food Catalogue does not grant legality to selling a product. It is only to show that the type of food is considered a novel food.
The recent requirement of authorisation of CBD food products means there are no authorised CBD extracts or isolates currently being sold.
Getting Authorisation on CBD Food Products
To continue selling their own CBD food products, manufacturers must follow the same application process for all other novel foods. This means submitting complete documentation with administrative and scientific data to the European Commission. Trade bodies and other suppliers may also submit applications.
Authorisation only applies to a product that has been authorised. A product that has the same production methods, authorised uses, and safety evidence base can be sold under a different brand and from businesses that are not the original applicant.
However, applicants that request and are granted confidentiality can rest assured that the important parts of their production and research on their product will not be made available to other businesses for five years.
Businesses that sell CBD food products that they did not manufacture are responsible for finding out if those products are authorised. They also cannot sell those products for any other use apart from what has been originally authorised.
The FSA strongly recommends submitting applications to them as well to smoothen the UK authorisation process from 1 January 2021. Businesses can contact the FSA for application at email@example.com.
Risk assessment can take up to nine months if all the necessary information has been provided. Upon receiving a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the Commission may take up to seven months to authorise the food and add it to the catalogue.
The application must be fully validated by 31 March 2021, so businesses need to account for the lead time from submitting an application and getting it approved. If it’s not done within the deadline, unauthorised products must be taken off the shelves.
New CBD food products should not be introduced to the market until they have gone through the full authorisation process.
Guidance on the Novel Food Status of A CBD Food Product
In case of products that businesses are not sure if they are novel foods or not, they can submit an Article 4 request. This is a consultation process with the FSA to determine if a product is indeed a novel food or not. It is also available for businesses who believe they can present evidence that the product in question has a history of consumption in the EU before May 1997.
The submission of an Article 4 request does not grant permission for the sale of unauthorised products. Law enforcement still applies to unauthorised novel foods being sold. Businesses must wait for official word from the FSA if their product they submitted an Article 4 request for falls under the legal definition of novel food before selling it.
How Your Business is Affected by the New CBD Rules
Which products are covered and not covered?
The first thing to keep in mind about the new authorisation process is that it only covers CBD products that can be consumed.
This includes the more obvious kinds of products like CBD gummies, snacks, spreads, and confectionery. It also covers all the CBD-infused drinks, such as coffee, tea, tonic water, energy drinks, and shakes. In addition, “consumable CBD products” applies to CBD-infused whey powders and CBD oils added to food.
What is not affected by the new CBD rules are CBD vape products, such as e-liquids and vape oils as well as CBD skincare and cosmetics like creams, balms, lotions, soaps, and patches.
What if you get your CBD products from a supplier?
It can definitely be a big hassle to have to ensure all the relevant CBD products you are selling are authorised, especially with the time it takes to complete the process. If you are not the manufacturer of the products in your store, you have to contact your suppliers.
However, what trouble this might cause your manufacturing or supply is a small price to pay towards further legitimising the industry. You might be one of the many legitimate businesses that offer only safe and effective CBD products, but there are unscrupulous companies that are merely riding on the popularity of CBD without putting in the safeguards to guarantee quality. These new measures by the government will weed out the industry of dishonest dealers.
In the future, you won’t even have to worry about buying illegitimate CBD food products from suppliers, as all new products have to pass through the authorisation process before they can even enter the market. You will be covered for any health claims as well.
How will this affect your customers?
With stricter regulations in place, the industry will have a better reputation among consumers. More people will be more willing to try out products knowing they are safe and do exactly as advertised. There will be fewer customers burned by poor quality products that might even endanger their health and well-being.
Customers also won’t have to do anything, so this shouldn’t affect your regular buyers. In fact, you can even make a stronger claim to your customers that all your CBD food products are fully authorised.
Toward A Safer, More Trustworthy CBD Food Industry
While the relative freedom in what products were being introduced and sold in the market has been a boon to the CBD industry, this is a sign that the industry is maturing and welcomes such government regulation.
Gaining mass recognition comes with acknowledging the need for stricter guidelines to gain wider consumer acceptance. It will ultimately be for the betterment of all concerned parties, as the products will only get safer and better.
At JM Wholesale, we have always believed that the CBD industry needed more strict regulation and guidelines for products. As we work with some of the most trusted and reliable manufacturers, most of the brands on our platform have already submitted their applications and are fully aware of the new ruling. If you are one of our customers, you do not have to do anything, as we always ensure that all of our products are fully compliant.
If you'd like to be assured that you're selling FSA-compliant CBD products in your store, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you get started.