The CBD market has grown exponentially since becoming mainstream after increased awareness due to the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in the UK in November 2018. However, this extreme growth has raised questions and concerns about the safety and regulation of CBD products.
The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), whose fundamental mission slogan is "Food you can trust", has classified CBD products as novel foods in the United Kingdom, requiring them to undergo a stringent authorisation process.
This article will dive deep into the Novel Food Regulation, its implications for the UK CBD industry, and how it impacts consumers seeking safe, compliant, high-quality CBD products.
What are Novel Foods?
Novel foods are foods or ingredients not consumed significantly within the European Union (EU) before 15 May 1997.
The Novel Food Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 aims to ensure that any new food products entering the market are safe for human consumption, do not mislead consumers, and do not replace traditional existing foods with a nutritional disadvantage.
The Role of the FSA in Regulating Novel Foods
The FSA's purpose is to safeguard public health. They work closely with the UK government, yet independently, to provide advice and guidance based on science and evidence.
Essentially their mission is to ensure the people of the UK can trust the food they eat is safe and what it says it is.
The FSA, since Brexit, has taken on greater responsibility, including regulating CBD products as novel foods, given that these products lack a history of consumption before 15 May 1997 in their current form.
This classification subjects CBD products to the same stringent authorisation process as other novel foods, such as chia seeds, ensuring they are safe, correctly labelled, and compliant with relevant regulations.
The Novel Food Application Process for CBD Products
The FSA has outlined a clear process for the authorisation of CBD products, which includes the following stages:
- Submission of a comprehensive novel food application, including safety assessments and evidence of the product being on the market before 13 February 2020.
- Validation of the application, ensuring it contains all required information.
- Review and authorisation of the application based on a thorough risk assessment.
This process helps ensure that CBD products are safe for consumers and compliant with regulatory requirements.
How the Novel Food Regulation Affects CBD Businesses
- The classification of CBD products as novel foods has significant implications for businesses operating in this industry. To comply with the Novel Food Regulation, CBD businesses must:
- Invest time and resources in preparing and submitting novel food applications for their products.
- Ensure their products meet safety standards and are correctly labelled.
- Navigate an uncertain regulatory landscape while awaiting authorisation decisions.
These challenges may deter some uncommitted companies from entering the CBD market, reduce investment due to uncertainty and result in the removal of non-compliant products from the shelves.
The Impact of Novel Food Regulation on CBD Consumers
The Novel Food Regulation affects CBD consumers in several ways, the majority being extremely positive:
- Safety: The authorisation process ensures that CBD products on the market are safe for consumption and meet high-quality standards.
- Transparency: The regulation requires accurate labelling and precise information about the CBD product's contents and dosage.
- Choice: As non-compliant products are potentially removed from the market, consumers may have fewer choices.
However, those products that remain on the market are more likely to be safe, legal and high-quality. Removing non-compliant products is down to local authorities to enforce, and their approach to this is yet to be seen.
Tips for Consumers: Choosing Compliant and Safe CBD Products
To ensure you are purchasing a compliant and safe CBD product in the UK, consider the following these tips:
- Check the Novel Food status of the product: If a CBD product is linked to a credible novel food application or authorised by the FSA it will be on their list of linked applications. You can find Beliebis' FSA-listed products here.
- Choose CBD products from reputable companies that provide transparent information about their extraction and manufacturing processes.
- Look for third-party lab certificates: Reputable CBD companies will have their products tested by independent, ISO-accredited laboratories to verify their safety, potency, and purity. Ensure to check the products Certificate of Analysis is avaliable to view before purchase.
- Read customer reviews: Look for genuine customer reviews and testimonials to gain insight into the experiences of others who have used the product. You can view all our Trustpilot reviews here.
- Consult with a healthcare professional: If you are unsure about using CBD or have any health concerns whatsoever, always consult a healthcare professional for advice.
Legal Aspects and Compliance in the CBD Industry
In addition to the Novel Food Regulation, CBD businesses must adhere to other legal requirements and guidelines. These may include:
- Ensuring products contain legal THC levels (the psychoactive compound in cannabis) to comply with UK regulations.
- Obtaining necessary licenses and permits for cultivating, processing and importing CBD products.
- Ensuring that marketing and advertising do not make unsubstantiated health claims.
By adhering to these legal requirements, CBD businesses can establish credibility and trust with consumers and regulatory authorities.
Challenges and Controversies Surrounding Novel Food Regulation
Implementing and enforcing the Novel Food Regulation for CBD products in the UK has been controversial. To be fair to FSA, Brexit dramatically changed the regulatory landscape regarding Novel Foods in general and came at a pivotal time for the CBD industry.
The FSA seemingly became overwhelmed by the size of the industry and the sheer number of applications causing several delays to deadlines in what is already a lengthy process expected to take seventeen months.
Many CBD businesses, particularly smaller ones, have faced financial and logistical hurdles in preparing and submitting comprehensive novel food applications.
This has led to concerns that the regulation may disproportionately impact smaller businesses, leading to a monopoly of a few major raw ingredient suppliers.
The impact on smaller businesses is more likely in the UK, due to taking a different approach to regulation than our European friends. The UK FSA deemed it necessary for every single product to be linked to an application, even if the CBD ingredient itself or finished was manufactured and supplied by a parent company.
This approach significantly increased the cost to smaller businesses that essentially had no impact on the safety of the product and the number of applications the UK FSA had to deal with.
Some critics have also argued that CBD products are not novel due to cannabis extracts being consumed hundreds and potentially thousands of years before 1997.
Other experts contend that a more targeted approach, focusing on specific safety concerns and product standards, could be more beneficial for both the industry and consumers.
The Novel Food Regulation has played a crucial role in shaping the CBD industry in the UK. By classifying CBD products as novel foods, the FSA and other regulatory agencies have taken significant steps to ensure the safety and quality of CBD products on the market.
However, implementing these regulations has not been without its challenges and controversies!
To navigate the complex regulations and continue to grow, CBD businesses must engage with the relevant authorities and invest in research and development to ensure the safety and efficacy of their products.
For consumers, the Novel Food Regulation offers increased confidence in the safety and quality of CBD products available on the market. By staying informed about current regulations and choosing compliant companies, consumers can enjoy the potential benefits of CBD whilst minimising any potential risks.
As the industry continues to mature, the CBD market is expected to become more diverse and accessible, providing consumers with a broader range of safe and high-quality products to choose from.
To view our current FSA Novel Foods Application status, please take a look at our CBD Novel Foods page here.