The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has changed its view.  CBD food supplements should now be classed as a novel food rather than a food supplement. This might have an impact on the continued commercialisation of CBD as food supplement. Manufacturers will be lobbying hard against this. In a parallel to Brexit, this outcome can be seen as all that is wrong with Europe – bureaucrats interfering with a technicality in law or EFSA actually using the Novel Food Regulation that the UK government help to create. Its a decision we shall continue to watch.

In December 2018, the Austrian government tightened its regulation on CBD, meaning that the popular brownies sold by Aida had to be given away for free so that rules were not broken. With hindsight this was an early insight into the view of EFSA.

FSA to act

Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has indicated it will ask local council trading standards officers to remove products from sale until this novel food approval process is complete, which could take 12-18 months.

Read FSA comment here
Cannabidiol novel food classification Pre 29 jan 2019 Cannabidiol novel food classification 29 Jan 2019 onwards
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.  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 Oil still be sold in UK?

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. See the example of Austria as a government who have restricted the sale of CBD as food/food supplement.

In the UK, the relevant governing body is the FSA (Food Standards Agency). All over Europe the local food safety authorities will be considering their approach. As ever it remains a dynamic space.

What is A Novel Food?

Unless evidence can be shown that a food or food supplement has been consumed in significant quantities by humans before 15 May 1997, it is classed as a novel food. If you want to sell these products you must apply for novel food authorisation. The method of processing/extraction is linked to the novel food. This process usually takes between 12 and 18 months. Novel foods are assessed for safety prior to approval. Examples of novel food products are chia seeds, krill oil and vitamin K.

Novel Food Catalogue

Why was CBD oil not novel?

Generally speaking, hemp oil obtained by cold-pressing the seeds or other parts of the hemp plant were considered to be classed as a food/food supplement. Highly concentrated CBD products and pure CBD extracts such as CBD isolate, were considered to be novel foods in Europe. These products are freely available in the USA. The decision to classify all CBD oils as novel foods means the old definition no longer applies.

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Click below to read our previous blogs on Cannabidiol.

Cannabis and Health Claims
MHRA CBD guidance