Healthspan January 29, 2019

An EU organisation called the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has changed its view on whether CBD supplements should be classed as a novel food rather than a food supplement. This might have an impact on CBD's legal status as a food supplement.

CBD was legal as a food supplement, right?

According to the EU, unless evidence can be shown that a food or food supplement has been consumed in significant quantities by humans before 1997, it is classed as a novel food, and so needs to go through an authorisation process before it can be sold.

Up until mid-January 2019 the EU Novel Food register stated that 'Extracts of Cannabis sativa L. in which cannabidiol (CBD) levels are higher than the CBD levels in the source Cannabis sativa L. are novel in food'. This meant that CBD products that had not had their CBD levels boosted in some way were not deemed to be novel food and could be sold as a food supplement in Europe.

Conversely, highly concentrated CBD products and pure CBD extracts such as CBD isolate, which were widely available in the USA, were deemed a novel food in Europe and as such were not approved for sale. The Healthspan CBD range qualified for sale as a food supplement, but more highly concentrated CBD products did not.

So, what changed?

The entry on the EU Novel Foods register changed. It now states '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 means that CBD supplements are now classed as a novel food by EFSA.

Can CBD still be sold in the UK?

The short answer is 'yes, for now'. The novel food catalogue is an advisory list and not a law. It is up to each EU country how and if it chooses to enforce the register change.

In the UK, the relevant governing body is the FSA (Food Standards Agency). The FSA hasn't yet released an official statement on the subject, but it did provide a comment to the Daily Mail, saying it will now take action to block sales. A spokesperson said: 'We are putting in transition measures to aid enforcement.' Brexit will not affect CBD's changed status, as Britain intends to transfer the EU rules into UK law.

What will happen next?

  • Individual EU countries will decide their position. All over Europe the local food safety authorities will be considering their approach, and in time each country will publish its stance.
  • Getting CBD an Approved Novel Food Status. Many novel food products have been deemed safe by passing a safety assessment under the Novel Food Regulation. Examples include chia seeds, krill oil and vitamin K. This process usually takes between 12 and 18 months, and both CBD brands and manufacturers will be pursuing this approach.

Will sales be stopped in the UK?

Healthspan is currently awaiting an official announcement from the FSA. However, Healthspan believes it is likely the FSA will give businesses a transition period in which they can continue to sell CBD products for a time, perhaps while a safety assessment under the Novel Food Regulation takes place. More information will be available soon.

Who's talking with the FSA & EFSA?

Various trade organisations including the UK-based Cannabis Trades Association (CTA), British Hemp Association (BHA), European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), as well as individual businesses.

Is CBD safe?

There is no reason to believe that CBD is in any way unsafe. The new classification by EFSA is not for safety reasons.

To be exempt from Novel Food classification, information had to be submitted to the Commission showing that CBD-rich extracts of Cannabis Sativa L. 'had been consumed by a significant degree by humans in the EU before 15 May 1997'.

As this was not the case for the kind of extracts that are currently in use, the products have been given Novel Food status, and as such now require a dossier to be submitted and approved.

Dr. Sarah Brewer, Healthspan Medical Director, advises: 'The new classification by EFSA is for regulatory and technicality reasons and not for safety reasons. Given that there is some uncertainty on the future free availability of CBD supplements, I'd recommend that people who find it beneficial for well-being continue as previously by ordering from a trusted supplier and continuing to take their CBD Oil.'

For more information see Healthspan's CBD FAQ.

What should CBD customers do?

CBD customers should not be concerned about the safety and legality of the product. Healthspan's product has always been safe, and this has not changed. The Healthspan CBD range is legal in the UK right now.

Will the rules change?

If the rules are modified, Healthspan will communicate any changes to customers as a priority.

Where can I find more information about novel foods?

The novel food catalogue is available online, and contains foods that had not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the EU before 15 May 1997, when the first regulation on novel food came into force.

According to the novel food website:

Examples of novel food include new sources of vitamin K (menaquinone) or extracts from existing food (Antarctic Krill oil rich in phospholipids from Euphausia superba), agricultural products from third countries (chia seeds, noni fruit juice), or food derived from new production processes such as UV treatment (milk, bread, mushrooms and yeast).

The underlying principles underpinning novel food in the European Union are that novel foods must be:

  • Safe for consumers
  • Properly labelled, so as not to mislead consumers
  • If novel food is intended to replace another food, it must not differ in a way that the consumption of the novel food would be nutritionally disadvantageous for the consumer
  • Pre-market authorisation of novel foods based on an evaluation in line with the above principles is necessary

What are the key facts I need to know right now?

  • Healthspan's CBD is legal in the UK
  • Healthspan's CBD is safe
  • Healthspan's CBD is still available to buy

However, while it is legal to possess and use CBD, there might now be more confusion around travelling with CBD. We would recommend avoiding travelling abroad with CBD in your possession.

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