Products containing the cannabis extract cannabidiol (CBD) could be withdrawn from store shelves in the United Kingdom within a year if they fail to gain regulatory approval.
That is the warning that has been issued by The Food Standards Agency (FSA), the government body that is responsible for food safety and hygiene in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
In a statement issued on February 13, the FSA set CBD businesses a deadline of March 2021 to provide more information about the safety and contents of their products. These companies are now being asked to apply for “novel food authorization” to help reassure the public.
“CBD products are widely available on the high street but are not properly authorized,” said Emily Miles, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency.
“The actions that we’re taking today are a pragmatic and proportionate step in balancing the protection of public health with consumer choice. 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.”
Alongside its warning to producers, the FSA also issued its first ever safety advice to consumers of CBD products.
The FSA has advised anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding to abstain from consuming CBD products. They also advised healthy adults to “think carefully” before consuming CBD and set the recommended daily intake at no more than 70mg, unless under direction from a medical professional.
The FSA stated that the precautionary advice has been based on recent findings by the government’s Committee on Toxicity (COT).
“My committee has reviewed the evidence on CBD food products and found evidence there are potential adverse health effects from the consumption of these products. We are particularly concerned about pregnant or breast-feeding women and people on medication,” said Professor Alan Boobis, Chair of the Committee on Toxicity.
“We don’t know enough to be sure about such a risk but I am pleased with the sensible and pragmatic approach the FSA is taking. The committee will continue to keep these products under review in the months ahead.”
What is CBD?
CBD regulations welcomed by producers
The FSA’s warning follows a meteoric rise for CBD, which has become one of the UK’s fastest-growing wellness supplements with more than 1.6 million regular consumers.
Sold as oils, supplements, food, and beverages, the market is expected to be worth more than £1 billion by 2025 according to research commissioned by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC). To put that into perspective, that’s almost as much as the rest of the UK’s herbal supplement markers combined.
Some of the producers working within this space welcomed the FSA’s announcement, claiming that it will establish a clear trajectory towards a safe and legally compliant industry.
“The FSA have today provided us with the regulatory clarity that the industry and consumers have been crying out for,” said Dr. Parveen Bhatarah, Regulatory Lead at the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry, an industry body which is committed to nurturing a safe, legal and well regulated CBD market in the UK. “It is critical that the industry now responds by undertaking all the investments required to ensure that we can deliver full regulatory compliance.”
“We applaud FSA for recognizing the demand for CBD in the UK, and for taking the necessary steps to protect consumers,” adds Stephen Mueller, Founder and CEO of Mile High Labs, an industrial-scale CBD ingredient manufacturer to the world’s leading consumer brands. “We are committed to filing our novel foods application and welcome the agency’s progressive focus on CBD compliance.”