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CBD has been the word on everyone’s lips for a while now. We have seen some exciting changes in the industry – better quality, more of a range, better access… But when it comes to the landscape of CBD in the UK, what is that going to look like?

In February, the FSA (Food Standard Agency) finally broke their silence on CBD’s topic. The statement was directed towards manufacturers and CBD producers in the UK. The change might not be welcomed across the board, though.

So here is what you need to know.

What Is Novel Food?

Novel Food is defined as a food that hasn’t been consumed to a large degree by humans before 15 May 1997 – which is when the first regulation on novel food came into play.

Here are a few examples of Novel Foods, Vitamin K food sources, agricultural products like Chia Seeds and Noni Fruit Juice.

A novel food is usually newly developed, innovative, and uses new technology and production processes. As well as foods that have been more traditionally eaten outside of the EU and UK.

The Link Between CBD, Novel Food, and the FSA?

In case you aren’t already aware, CBD is the naturally occurring chemical compound that has, in recent years, been extracted and sold as the extracted form. Or used in a variety of food products.

CBD was only added to the Novel Foods Catalogue in 2019, and at that time, CBD was confirmed as a novel food. It does not have a recorded history of consumption before 15 May 1997.

This means that CBD products now have to be evaluated and authorized before they can be legally sold.

This is where the FSA comes in. The Food Standard Agency is the regulating body for novel food, and that now includes CBD. It is important to note that it does not involve vaping CBD, cosmetics, and extracts that contain THC or anything that is medically prescribed.

In summary? The FSA is the body in charge of the decisions when it comes to CBD products that are going to be consumed in food form.

The Application Process

There has been a knock-on impact for the CBD industry since the FSA has been involved. Once something is declared as a novel food, it is then subject to a range of rules and regulations.

CBD producers and manufacturers are now required to submit a novel food application. This will ensure that all CBD products will meet the legally set standard for safety and content. While it is currently clear precisely what this will look like, members of the CTA (Cannabis Trades Organisation) will be kept up to date.

“CBD products are widely available on the high street but are not properly authorised. The CBD industry must provide more information about the safety and contents of these products to the regulator before 31 March 2021, or the products will be taken off the shelves.” – Emily Miles, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency

Companies that submit their application will be able to keep their products for sale until they receive a rejection or acceptance letter from the FSA, and the rules will be enforced will take place in March 2021 and beyond. The catch here is – this is only going to apply to any products that have been on the market since 2018, and all applications will need to be validated by March 2021.

FSA – “Businesses need to submit, and have fully validated, novel food authorisation applications by 31 March 2021. After this date, only products for which the FSA has a valid application will be allowed to remain on the market.”

What is interesting about this is that once an application has been submitted/validated, a product may stay on the market as long as they are labelled properly. That means to a legal standard, safe to eat and contain nothing that falls under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

There are two authorisation routes on the FSA website, and it is stated that there is no fee for submitting the application.

Steps For Application Process

– Data gathering – lab data, safety and exposure data, manufacturing process, purity and intended use
– Submission of application on online portal
– Evaluation by FSA – This can be a long wait between 9-18 months
– Questions from FSA plus response time
– Approval or Rejection

The cost will come from the data, testing, labs etc.

Cannabis Trades Organisation

The impact is likely to be felt by smaller CBD operations and the cannabis market a whole. So the CTA is working hard to ensure that all of the relationships that need to be kept healthy here are. The CTA is the representatives of many of the UK’s CBA sellers, and are keen to make sure their members work with all of the regulations and law.

They are of the stance that CBD extracts do not fall under the Novel Foods regulations, as they aren’t novel foods.

Here is what they had to say – “Although the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) duly welcome a Route to Compliance for the industry and its members, we are still of the opinion that natural (not isolates or synthetic forms) CBD products do not fall under the scope of the Novel Food schedule”. You can read the rest of the statement here – CTA statement

What Is The Impact?

There are few implications that CBD businesses are going to run into when they submit an application, and one of them might be pretty impactful for smaller companies.

  • You have the time to wait for up to 18 months to see if your application has been approved, although this may take longer
  • You agree that the natural CBD extracts should be classified as a Novel Food
  • You have enough money to ensure you fully complete the process which might cost hundreds of thousands

The CTA has been offering counterpoints to the FSA statement and is working to ensure the protection of their members and the work they do will help all CBD companies during the next few months. One of the biggest issues is the financial impact it will have on smaller retailers. However, in general, the CTA does support regulations initiatives for the industry.

With all that said, CBD is a significant growth market, and while the FSA does require an application to be submitted for approval by March 2021 it is not yet clear how that will impact the next few years.