Producers are being asked to apply to the FSA for ‘novel food authorisation’
Thursday, 13th February 2020, 12:24 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th February 2020, 12:30 pm
Products containing the cannabis extract cannabidiol (CBD) could be “taken off the shelves” next year if they do not comply with regulation, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said.
The regulator said if those in the industry fail to give more information about the safety and contents of their products by the end of March next year, the products could be removed from shops.
In its first ever safety advice to consumers on CBD, the FSA said pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and people taking medication should not eat foods containing the ingredient derived from the cannabis plant, and also cautioned others who might eat such foods not to have more than 70mg a day.
Producers are being asked to apply to the FSA for “novel food authorisation” which, the agency said, will reassure the public about the safety of CBD products.
CBD or cannabidiol
Extracts of CBD, a chemical found naturally within the cannabis plant, are contained in a range of products including oils, confectionery, and drinks.
THC is the cannabis plant’s psychoactive ingredient but there are more than 100 other chemical compounds in the plant. CBD is extracted by soaking the plant in alcohol and then evaporating the liquid, and does not make people high.
FSA chief executive Emily Miles said while such products are “widely available on the high street” they are not properly authorised.
“The CBD industry must provide more information about the safety and contents of these products to the regulator before 31 March 2021, or the products will be taken off the shelves,” she said.
“Also today, we are advising that CBD could be risky for vulnerable groups, and suggesting an upper limit of 70mg a day for everyone else taking the product.
“The actions that we’re taking today are a pragmatic and proportionate step in balancing the protection of public health with consumer choice. It’s now up to industry to supply this information so that the public can be reassured that CBD is safe and what it says it is.”
While the FSA has issued guidance, which applies only to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is local authorities that will have the power to enforce the novel foods legislation.
Professor Alan Boobis, chairman of the committee on toxicity – which advises the FSA and department of health, said while the risk from CBD is not certain, the agency’s approach is a “sensible and pragmatic” one.
He said: “My committee has reviewed the evidence on CBD food products and found evidence there are potential adverse health effects from the consumption of these products.
“We are particularly concerned about pregnant or breast-feeding women and people on medication.
“We don’t know enough to be sure about such a risk but I am pleased with the sensible and pragmatic approach the FSA is taking. The committee will continue to keep these products under review in the months ahead.”
Thursday’s announcement does not affect people who take medically prescribed CBD or cannabis, the FSA said.
Additional reporting from Press Association