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CBD oil in crisis

What does the Food Standards Agency mean by ‘proportionate compliance’ for CBD products?

Andrea Gutierrez-Solana Delgado

Cannabidiol (CBD) – a non-psychoactive chemical compound found in hemp plants – has become a household name in recent years. CBD products have soared in popularity in recent years amid supposed health benefits.

Although the trend originated in the US, there is a growing awareness of CBD products in Europe, which are now available in a variety of formats. The popularity of CBD products among consumers continues to boom, having recently been named one of the fastest-growing industries in the UK.

However, somewhat ironically, the future is hazy for CBD.

Recently, the European Commission included this substance, and all other cannabinoids, in the European Commission Novel Food catalogue.

The decision has unsurprisingly been met with criticism and confusion. Some industry representatives claim to be entitled to compensation for losses associated with the reclassification of CBD as a novel food and have threatened to bring judicial proceedings against the FSA.

Their argument proposes that hemp and hemp extracts have been used as foodstuff by humans for at least ten thousand years without a single recorded fatality – centuries before 1997, which would negate its status as a novel food.

The inclusion of CBD in the novel food catalogue presents a challenge to food businesses hoping to take advantage of the booming CBD market. As a result of the decision, independent manufacturers of CBD would be forced to submit a dossier for the authorisation of CBD as a novel food in order to legally produce and distribute the product. This process would likely take at least eighteen months from submission to approval.

In the UK, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) proceeded to update its guidance procedure on novel foods and made a statement that would strongly impact the CBD industry, stating that:

“The FSA accepts the clarification from the EU that CBD extracts are considered novel foods. We are committed to finding a proportionate way forward by working with local authorities, businesses and consumers to clarify how to achieve compliance in the marketplace in a proportionate manner.”

This ambiguous stance on how they will implement this decision has raised serious question marks over the future of CBD products in Britain.

In the coming months, it is possible that the FSA will take action to ensure that CBD products are taken off the market, as has already been the case in other European countries, but it still remains unclear how the FSA will proceed with enforcement.

For smaller independent retailers and manufactures who have invested into the CBD market, this could lead to major financial difficulties. On the other hand, this may also address valid concerns that anyone can be making CBD products and selling them online, increasing safety for the consumer.

If your business needs any support in navigating through these policy challenges or if you have any questions on what regulatory changes may impact your business, get in touch by visiting

What happens next?

  • Will there be a judicial review?
  • Will companies sue for compensation?
  • Authorisation dossiers could take 18 months
  • But rogue online sales may be halted

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