Over the last couple of years, CBD products have gained increasing popularity in the UK, with new brands popping up and companies entering the market, seemingly, every week. However, the market may be set to look a little different next year, as the deadline for Novel Foods authorisation creeps closer.
CBD Regulation in the UK
The CBD boom has led to the sprouting of an immensely diverse CBD industry in the UK. However, an ongoing lack of regulation has meant that this industry has also been tainted by low-quality products. According to a 2019 report by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, a significant proportion of CBD products in the UK may not be accurately labelled or meet UK and EU standards.
Following the testing of 29 CBD oils purchased in the UK, it was discovered that only 38% of these products were within 10% of the advertised CBD content. A further 38% contained less than 50% of the advertised CBD content.
CBD as a Novel Food
In January 2019, the European Union Food Safety Agency added CBD to its list of Novel Foods. Products are labelled as ‘Novel’ if it was not consumed to a significant extent prior to the 15th May 1997. It may also apply to a method that has not previously been used for food products.
In February 2020, the Foods Standards Agency (FSA), stated:
“Businesses need to submit, and have fully validated, novel food authorisation applications by 31 March 2021. After this date, only products for which the FSA has a valid application will be allowed to remain on the market.”
This authorisation system is expected to root through the currently unregulated market, creating a more refined sector. Over the last few years, retailers have been increasingly eager to stock CBD products as public interest and awareness of the cannabinoid has improved. Well-known high street chains such as Boots, Holland & Barrett, Lloyds, and even WHSmith have entered the market as stockists.
However, following the Novel Foods deadline next year, it is expected that a number of products will be removed from the market. The process of being granted Novel Foods authorisation can be complicated and costly. Therefore, CBD brands will be required to possess the necessary resources and expertise to meet this deadline.
In 2019, the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis launched the Association for the Cannabinoids Industry (ACI) to provide members with guidance and resources outlining the steps to becoming Novel Food compliant.