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CBD, a novel food?

One of the biggest and fastest growing wellness products in the UK, Cannabidiol, or more commonly referred to as, CBD, has experienced unprecedent demand since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Despite CBD itself being legal in the UK, the waters are muddy. There is a web of regulation which surrounds CBD and CBD products.

One of the most common ways to consume CBD is orally, as either a food or food supplement. In 2019, The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) adopted the approach taken by the EU authorities in respect of the categorisation of CBD food products. They declared that CBD is a novel food, and accordingly, CBD food and food supplements would fall within the Novel Food regulatory regime.

This position has held steady notwithstanding Brexit. Broadly speaking however, the regulation currently in place in the UK allows businesses looking to trade in CBD food and food supplements to do the following:

  • Import CBD: As long as levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are verified by an accredited UK-based ISO lab to be below 0.01%, there are no strict requirements which apply to importing CBD into the UK. An exception to this is CBD flowers and buds, which are prohibited in their entirety.
  • Sell CBD food and food supplements: As long as the THC levels have been verified by an accredited UK-based ISO lab to fall below 0.01%, a hemp licence is not required to sell CBD in the UK. What is required, however, is a Novel Food authorisation.

Novel Food status

For businesses looking to market a CBD food or a food supplement, the sole route for compliance in the UK is to apply for authorisation of their CBD extracts and isolates. Any such application requires extensive detail, however to provide a flavour of what’s required:

  • The application must include details of the specific novel CBD product, including method of manufacture, the intended uses of the product for which authorisation is sought, and the safety evidence base relied upon.
  • A granted authorisation will only apply to the product against which the application is submitted and the uses detailed in that application.
  • Where CBD products are purchased from a supplier, you must always check the correct authorisation is in place, and that the uses envisioned for those products is included within the application as granted.
  • Applications can be made and submitted on the FSA Website. There is no fee to make an application.

The European Food Safety Authority has published extensive guidance on the application process which you can access by clicking here. The FSA has stated that it will continue to use these guidelines when assessing applications in 2021 now the Brexit transition period has ended.

If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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