2nd June 2019
By Emily Ledger
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The growing availability and popularity of CBD products in the UK may be set to take a hit. The European Union’s Novel Food Regulations ((EU) 2015/2283) state that any product considered to be ‘novel’ in food requires authorisation.

A food is considered ‘novel’ by the European Commission if it was not consumed in the EU to any significant degree before May 1997. Until a ‘novel’ food is authorised, it may not be sold in EU countries.

What is a novel food?

This includes newly developed food (e.g. Antarctic krill oil), food produced using new technologies (such as UV-treated food), and food with a history of consumption in countries outside of the EU (such as chia seeds). This applies to all foodstuffs, including food supplements, ingredients, and substances intended to be incorporated into food.

What has been said?

Recent updates to the European Union’s Novel Foods Catalogue have occurred regarding the use of CBD. Other cannabinoids and hemp-derived products in food are also affected. A recently-added submission for the term ‘Cannabinoids’ reads (emphasis added):

“Without prejudice to the information provided in the novel food catalogue for the entry relating to Cannabis sativa L., extracts of Cannabis sativa L. and derived products containing cannabinoids are considered novel foods as a history of consumption has not been demonstrated.

“This applies to both the extracts themselves and any products to which they are added as an ingredient (such as hemp seed oil). This also applies to extracts of other plants containing cannabinoids. Synthetically obtained cannabinoids are considered as novel.”

What happens now?

Before a food considered ‘novel’ can be sold in the EU it must be authorised. This must follow a submission of an application of authorisation to the European Commission. In order to be authorised, a product must demonstrate that it is safe, does not mislead the consumer, and is not nutritionally disadvantageous.

At present, a novel food application for CBD is under consideration with the European Food Safety Agency (ESFA). This will aim to authorise the use of CBD in food supplements for adults with a daily intake of up to 130 mg. If the application is successful, the European Commission must draft an implementing act authorising the use of the product within seven months.

Until a further update from the EU, consumers, vendors and manufacturers may find that the sale of CBD oils, supplements and food is disrupted.

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