As a professional with both medicines and food law experience, Cannabidiol/CBD is an area that continues to fascinate me. There are myths and facts aplenty, so it was inevitable that I would visit the Hemp & CBD Expo at the NEC earlier this month.

CBD is everywhere and it looks to be going more and more mainstream. Products entering the market growing every day. CBD was initially led by vaping products but oral drops, gummies, tablets, capsules, 3D printed lozenges, protein powders, chocolate, beer and fizzy drinks are starting to make their presence felt. Commentators indicate that the US market for CBD is estimated to grow by 700% by 2020 and worth $2 billion. Many see CBD de-stigmatising Cannabis and Cannabis plants.

Never sure what to expect, I took a like-minded pharmacist entrepreneur along with me as my buddy. Interaction with exhibitors is easier when you can have a conversation, rather than seeming to interrogate them. We had both visited the Pharmacy Show last year, astonished then at the number of stands devoted to CBD. Fate played its role as the Hemp & CBD Expo was in Hall 18 – the same venue.

Although it was the same hall, it was two expos divided by one common theme. There was a very different vibe and crowd in attendance to that in October 2018. The presence of large USA sponsors was very apparent, with significant  exhibition space, given to USA based edibles, drinks and oils. Suppliers of lamps, filling equipment, presses for oil extraction, nutrients to grow Cannabis plants, CBD isolates, white label manufacturers, gummies, chocolate and vaping solutions all vied for space and attention. Whilst the environment may be about to change in Europe for Cannabidiol as a food – noting the change in status on the European Novel Food catalogue in Jan 2019 – this was not considered to be an issue worthy of note to many of the exhibitor’s present.

FSA Novel Food Update

The Food Standards Agency recently updated their Novel Food website with respect to Cannabidiol.
Read here

No further information from the European Commission or EFSA’s Working group on Novel Foods has been published. This month the FSA issued an update specifically about Cannabidiol/ Novel Food within their website.

The regulatory status of CBD isolates appear to be supported for use in vaping products or cosmetics but the CBD isolates do not have a history of consumption before May 1997. These products would be considered to be novel foods so cannot be consumed as food/food supplements, without the right approval.

Taste – as a confirmed chocoholic, CBD infused sweet treats need further taste masking before this Pharmacist could be persuaded to part with hard cash in the future. Terpenes don’t make for a good taste experience. Any health benefit would be hard to swallow.

We came away with the view that whilst CBD oil may have a role in the future, the majority of exhibitors were focussed on the edible/drink’s opportunity for CBD. All traders were very aware of the non-medicinal status of Hemp & CBD, though some continue deliberately or inadvertently to make clumsy statements about CBD as an effective solution for aches and pains – this practice can only lead to more consumer confusion.

It was if nothing else informed entertainment for a damp Saturday afternoon. If you wish to hear a different balanced view about CBD, then the Radio 4’s Food and Drink programme ‘Why is CBD on everyone’s lips’ is a good introduction to the subject.  The programme looks to understand the current hype around CBD in both food and drink.