Following the release of the Food Standards Agency’s list of approved CBD products, it has since issued a final call after companies came forward with new evidence.
The FSA first issued its public list of cannabinoid (CBD) products permitted for sale to consumers. Publication of the list – described as a key stage on the path to full authorisation, expected in 2023 – means only those CBD products featured on the list have been given the green light by the FSA to stay on the market, in line with the UK’s Novel Food requirements. Products not included must now be removed from shelves.
In releasing the list, FSA Chief Executive, Emily Miles, advised: “We have created the public list to help local authorities and retailers prioritise products to be removed from sale. If a product is not on the list, it should be removed from sale because it is not attached to a credible application to us for market authorisation. But being on the list means that the application is credible and the FSA has, or is shortly expecting to receive, significant scientific evidence from the applicant with which to judge safety.
“I want to emphasise that the FSA is not endorsing products on the public list, and inclusion on the list is no guarantee that they will be authorised as they have not yet been fully assessed for safety. But we have taken the step of publishing the list so that local authorities, retailers and consumers can make informed judgments about what they stock and buy, as we gradually bring this growing market into compliance with the law.”
However, the list has also attracted criticism, and most recently, the FSA has issued a new statement, explaining that it was making a final call for evidence linking products to applications on the public list. The CBD public list shows which products have a credible application for authorisation with the FSA.
Rebecca Sudworth, Director of Policy at the FSA, explained: “Our announcement on 31 March that the CBD public list should be used to help prioritise efforts to enforce the novel food regulations has prompted a number of companies to come forward with new evidence linking large numbers of individual products to applications. We are reviewing this new evidence to assess whether these products meet the criteria to be added to the list.
“This is an unexpected development as this product information should have been provided to us much earlier in the process. To support products, we are therefore making one final call for evidence from businesses to link their products to credible applications. Any businesses that have not already done so must send this evidence to us as soon as possible, but no later than 26 May for consideration.
“We aim to update the public list twice before 30 June, with the first update due very shortly. After 30 June, no new products will be added. The only changes made after this will be to reflect changes to the status of products in our novel foods authorisation process.” She went on: “The CBD business is a large and complex market, where currently no products on sale have formally been through the necessary safety assessment. The FSA continues to take a proportionate and pragmatic approach to bringing this huge range of products towards compliance. There will continue to be a degree of change in the short term as the process continues. Certainty will only come after authorisation of CBD applications is achieved.”
The FSA stated that only CBD food products which meet the following criteria can be added to the public list:
- They were on the market at the time of the
announcement on CBD (13 February 2020).
- It received an authorisation application for the
products by 31 March 2021.
- The FSA validated the application or agreed that
it is sufficiently progressing towards validation.
Commenting on the fast-moving matter, Graham Keen, Executive Director at the HFMA, told Health Food Business: “As you would expect, we have been tracking this situation very closely, and have been in regular contact with the key FSA officials involved. This action by the FSA has provided opportunities and challenges in equal measure, but the overarching aim is something the HFMA is passionate about – the overall raising of industry standards and the provision of the highest quality products to consumers.
“That said, the ambiguity surrounding the FSA’s published list is unhelpful at best, and potentially commercially devastating at worst. I’m pleased to say that several HFMA members’ products feature in the list. However, having published a ‘definitive’ list, the FSA has now accepted that this list was incomplete, and, at time of writing, we are still waiting to see the updated version. A number of member companies have been reassured that their products will feature in this revised list. In the meantime, at the HFMA we are doing what we do best – keeping members informed of developments and challenging the appropriate regulatory authorities when needed.”
Commenting when the list was first released, CBD brand, Love Hemp, which was included on it, says it can now progress through to the validation stage. Love Hemp said it had submitted multiple individual products at the beginning of this process, two years ago, and has invested initially over £300,000 to ensure it received the best legal and scientific advice for a successful application. Adam Pritchard, Chief Commercial Officer of Love Hemp, commented: “We note the latest update from the FSA and are delighted with the results. The CBD industry in the UK has been largely unregulated, resulting in a lack of clarity for our consumers, and we welcome progress made to date by the FSA. We continue to work closely with the FSA and look forward to the next stage of the process, proceeding to validation followed by full approvals.”
In other CBD news, The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry and First November Group have announced the launch of a new wide ranging commission to review regulation and public policy relating to the UK’s legal cannabis industry. Professor Christopher Hodges, Emeritus Professor of Justice Systems, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford, will chair the Commission, which will report in May 2022.
The final report will provide a detailed blueprint for how the UK Government and its regulation agencies can accelerate the path to becoming the global leader in cannabinoid research and innovation.
The review will consider the size and nature of the UK’s legal marketplace in cannabinoids and make policy and industry recommendations. The scope of the report will cover two main areas – medicinal and consumer cannabinoids – and it will take account of the entire supply chain, from cultivation and R&D to product development, manufacturing and sale. The principal objective is to create greater strategic coherence across Whitehall in relation to engagement with the sector in relation to both economic development and regulation.