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Industry concern over EU’s ‘U-turn’ on CBD classification

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Concern has been raised at the mystifying reason the European Commission has reclassified CBD products to be novel foods.

Responding to the news, which saw the Commission change the classification as novel foods in its non-binding Novel Foods Catalogue as part of a general update, the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) has said it is liaising with the authorities to determine the way forward.

Graham Keen, the HFMA’s Executive Director, told Health Food Business when the news broke: “The European Commission’s U-turn on the classification of CBD products as novel foods in its non-binding Novel Foods Catalogue is mystifying and causing extensive confusion and concern amongst retailers and manufacturers, who have been legally making and selling CBD-based products for several decades.

“Rather than consult food businesses on the presence of products on the market before May 1997, as would be expected, the Commission announced its new position on CBD as part of a general update to their Novel Food Catalogue. They have given
no further explanation, do not appear to have consulted with stakeholders as they are required to do, and are seeking to apply what would in effect be a blanket requirement for approval, rather than considering products on a case-by-case basis, which is the required approach.”

It is an issue that the HFMA has been liaising with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) over, with Keen adding: “We have been meeting with the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the UK’s competent authority in this area, and we will continue to have discussions with them on this issue. It was good to hear from them that the FSA does not intend to take unnecessarily proactive or pre-emptive action and will be taking a proportionate approach going forward. It is important to remember that the Novel Food Catalogue provides guidance for regulators, a case by case assessment is required, and it is not legally binding.

“The Commission has given no detail in support of its new classification and, as well as seeking a solution for UK manufacturers and retailers based on the facts, including the historic use of these products, we shall be urging the FSA to press the Commission for a detailed explanation for this change to the Novel Food Catalogue, and why industry has not been consulted.

“Hemp and hemp-derived products have been used in tinctures and infusions for hundreds of years and only last year, the WHO concluded in an authoritative Critical Review Report that CBD is safe and that there is absolutely no evidence that its consumption creates any public health-related problems.”

Commenting on the matter, an FSA spokesman told Health Food Business: “There has been a recent change to the EU Novel Food Catalogue which affects some cannabidiol (CBD) products. Food businesses have not been able to show there was a significant history of consumption of these products in food and food supplements prior to May 1997 in the EU.

“Under the Novel Food Regulations, foods or food ingredients which do not have a history of consumption need to be evaluated and authorised before they are permitted to be placed on the market. The FSA are considering the way forward in light of this clarification at EU level. We are meeting with relevant industry representative bodies, local authorities and other stakeholders to clarify how to achieve compliance in the marketplace in a proportionate manner.”

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