On 31 March 2022, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) published the list of cannabinoid (CBD) containing food products that have a credible application for novel food authorisation pending with the FSA.
The products on the list may remain on the market in England and Wales while their application is considered. For CBD products not on the list, FSA advises local authorities to encourage marketers to voluntarily remove their products from the market to avoid more formal action.
Despite the prevalence of CBD-containing food products on the UK market, none are currently authorised for sale. While CBD is a chemical found naturally within the cannabis plant it has only very recently been extracted and sold as a separate product for ingestion. As such, CBD is considered a “novel” food in the EU and UK which must be authorised by the relevant authority prior to being placed on the market. The authorisation process ensures novel foods meet legal standards, including on safety and content.
On 13 February 2020, the FSA set industry a deadline of 31 March 2021 to submit valid novel food authorisation applications. This process was open to any CBD product designed for oral consumption that was on sale in England and Wales on or before 13 February 2020. Local authorities, which enforce the novel food legislation, were advised that businesses should be able to sell their existing CBD products during this time provided they were not incorrectly labelled, were not unsafe to eat and did not contain substances that fall under drugs legislation. However, any product launched after 13 February 2020, or which was not the subject of a dossier submitted by the cut-off date, could not be sold until full authorisation is granted.
The significance of the list published yesterday is that while the decision on enforcement regarding non-compliant novel foods remains with local authorities, the FSA has recommended that the CBD products on the list marked as ‘Validated’ or ‘Awaiting evidence’ may stay on the market in England and Wales, pending further consideration. Any products which do not appear on the list or are marked as ‘Removed’ must be withdrawn from the market, as the related novel food application has not been submitted or has been deemed unsuitable for progressing to authorisation. The release of the list is also an important milestone for the CBD foods sector as it will help consumers make informed choices about CBD products and increase legal certainty which may encourage investment in the sector.
The FSA’s CBD product list applies to England and Wales only. In Northern Ireland, companies must continue to adhere to EU Novel Food rules and procedures as a result of Brexit protocols (please refer to the FSA’s CBD Northern Ireland guidance) and novel foods regulations in Scotland are covered by Food Standards Scotland.
The FSA is shortly expecting to receive significant scientific evidence from the applicants on the list from which to assess safety of the relevant product. Applications must go through a full risk assessment and, if successful, risk management process before a recommendation on authorisation can be made. For those product whose applications are successful, authorisation is expected in 2023.
The list will be updated regularly to reflect the status of the products in the process.