The ABC of CBD

The Food Standard Agency (FSA) published its list of food products containing cannabidiol (CBD) that enables these to be retailed as novel food.

This shows that around 3,500 products are still permitted for sale in the UK – with thousands now no longer allowed. The significance of the list is 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 Any products which do not appear on the list or are marked as ‘Removed’ must be withdrawn from the market, as the related novel food application has not been submitted or has been deemed unsuitable for progressing to authorisation. 

To deliver compliance and remove the ‘many thousands’ of products which failed to make the grade, the responsibility of enforcement falls on retailers and local authorities. A difficult task.

The list itself is designed so local authorities, retailers and consumers execute their own level of enforcement by making informed judgements about what they stock, and buy, to meet compliance.

The news is a positive development for the sector’s progress. A more regulated CBD market with clearer regulations and stricter requirements for suppliers will benefit companies as well as consumers.

Surely, less serious players will find it increasingly difficult to ply their trade?

What happens next is procedural. The FSA is expecting to receive 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.

Much as process has its place, it comes at a cost. Producers have consistently talked of their concerns about lack of funds stifling investment and development. Hopefully, future authorisation enables the sector to move forward with a range of products in which consumers understand the benefits. There are a number of products available from ‘isolate’ CBD to full-spectrum, which potential customers have to get to grips with. This isn’t to forget the products on the market that may contain THC. 

The list is a long time in coming. Its release is a recognisable milestone for the CBD foods sector as it increases legal certainty which may encourage investment at a time when health and wellness is at the forefront of people’s purchasing behaviour.

The UK market for CBD products is estimated to be worth €814.5 million in 2021, according to the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry. The CBD market in the EU is forecast to grow to around €25.5 billion by 2027.

The publication of the list could be the turning point industry needs. The sector still has considerable interest (despite claims of it running out of puff) and providing this next step in providing a level of clarity and confidence works, it will help producers expand and commence discussions with retailers who have been waiting to spell out the advantages of products with CBD.

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