The UK Food Standards Agency has announced a deadline of 31 March 2021 for companies marketing cannabidiol (CBD) extracts as foods or food supplements industry to submit novel food authorisation applications.  After 31 March 2021, the FSA stated that only products with a fully validated novel food authorisation application will be permitted and all other novel CBD products will be removed from sale.  In online guidance for businesses the FSA strongly recommend that applications are sent to the FSA for consideration – as well as to the European Commission as usual – so that they may progress swiftly through the UK authorisation process from 1 January 2021, at the end of the UK’s Brexit transition period.

The move follows an update in January 2019 to the EU Novel Foods catalogue, which classified CBD as a novel food on the basis that there was inadequate evidence of its use as a food before 15 May 1997.  The catalogue is non-binding but in practice is followed by EU Member States.  Indeed, recently, courts in Germany have held that the catalogue is indicative and can be relied upon, as it reflects the current views of the European Commission and the competent authorities in the Member States.

The UK’s 31 March 2021 deadline only applies to novel CBD products that are already on the market and does not include products that are not yet on the market, meaning that no new CBD products will be allowed on the market without the appropriate authorisation, according to the FSA.  Accordingly, the FSA has advised local authorities that businesses may continue to sell existing CBD products until the deadline (provided they are not incorrectly labelled, are not unsafe and do not contain substances that fall under drugs legislation), but no new CBD products should be sold until they have been authorised.

The FSA is responsible for regulating CBD as a novel food and the authorisation regime outlined above will apply to CBD products sold as food or as food supplements, including: oils, drops or tinctures, gel capsules, sweets and confectionery, bread and other bakery products and drinks.  The FSA is not responsible for products such as cosmetics, vapes, medicinal CBD products or products containing controlled drugs such as THC, which fall under different regimes, including rules governing medicines and controlled substances.

The FSA has also issued precautionary consumer advice on the consumption of CBD.  This follows the Committee of Toxicity (COT) considering the available scientific data on the safety of CBD and publishing an update outlining their findings.  The FSA has followed the COT’s recommendations and advises that vulnerable groups (those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking medication) should not consume CBD at all, and healthy adults should limit their consumption to no more than 70 mg of CBD a day, unless advised otherwise by a doctor.  Businesses selling CBD products are expected to be aware of this advice and should “be able to inform consumers” of the recommended daily dose for healthy adults, and of the potential risks to those in vulnerable groups.