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CBD forecast – cloudy with a chance of hope

Andrea Solana
Account Director at Whitehouse Communications

On October 12, the Food Standards Agency updated its consumer advice on CBD, dramatically cutting its recommended daily amount from 70 grams to 10 grams per day and plunging the industry into a frenzy. But what does this advice really mean for retailers selling CBD products, and what does the future of this bestseller ingredient look like?

It was only three years ago that the FSA published its first recommendations for CBD. At the time, the agency had made the decision to exempt the substance from the usual enforcement of rules concerning novel foods.

CBD is a novel substance and, as such, it should have been authorised before being allowed on the market. But in the UK, CBD products have exponentially grown in popularity over the past decade despite this lack of authorisation.

On the back of this unusual situation, the FSA decided to allow companies to keep the products in stores as long as they would present a valid novel food application before February 2020. At the time, the FSA also produced some preliminary recommendations stating that consumers should not take more than 70 grams of the substance per day.

Since then, many companies have been successful in submitting a valid application, but an authorisation for CBD is yet to materialise. This lack of progress is due to a number of reasons, including the lack of legal clarity on how much THC (a fellow cannabinoid and illegal narcotic that it is difficult to completely remove from CBD-based products) should be allowed in CBD foods.

In this context of uncertainty and based on the latest scientific evidence, the FSA has lowered its recommended daily amount for CBD to a maximum of 10 grams per day, casting doubts on what any future authorisation might look like as most applications submitted involve higher doses.

The decision to publish this new advice has been criticised by the industry for creating further confusion among retailers, manufacturers and consumers. It is important to note that the FSA guidelines are not legally binding, and shops are not required to follow them. Some do so, however, as part of their internal policies which has resulted in some products being removed from the market, at least temporarily.

So, what does the future look like for CBD? Cloudy with a chance of hope. Shortly after the FSA recommendation came out, the Government published a response to advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, confirming it agrees with recommendations to set a limit of 50 micrograms of THC per unit of consumption in CBD products.

The government plans to introduce a framework to regulate this further, bringing some much-needed clarity for a successful resolution of the novel food applications saga.

The Whitehouse team are expert political consultants providing public relations and public affairs advice and political analysis to a wide range of clients in the United Kingdom and across the European Union. For more information, please contact [email protected].

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