THE head of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) says it is now only a matter of weeks before it publishes further details on the CBD products and companies which will be allowed to remain on the UK market.
At an FSA board meeting last week CEO Emily Miles said one of the reasons it had missed its March 31 deadline was due to the ‘quality of applications being lower than anticipated’.
She went on to say that 210 applications, representing thousands of products – were still under consideration.
Three Things Possible
Ms Miles said that ‘over the next few months’ they would update the industry and three things are possible.
This includes publishing two lists;
-a Public List of Validated Products
-a second ‘On-Hold’ list for applications where it expected all the necessary information to be provided in a ‘timely manner in order that the application will be validated’.
The FSA has so far rejected some 600 applications and she went on to say it expected to reject more ‘due to insufficient information for validation and no prospect of that information being provided’.
Ms Miles said it had stepped-up talks with Trading Standards which will be provided with required information to begin enforcement action against those companies whose applications have been rejected.
She told the meeting: “We will shortly have triaged all applications into the three categories above. After this time, only those products on the two lists should remain on the market.
“At that point we will remind stakeholders including retailers of this and will offer guidance to local authorities on the enforcement of novel food legislation.”
The Final Stretch
With just four applications having so far passed through the Validation stage and placed on the Public List the announcement it will be updated over the coming weeks has been welcomed by one of the UK’s leading CBD firms, Manchester-based Always Pure Organics.
Gavin Ogilvie, CEO, told BusinessCann he sympathised with the task at hand for the FSA saying it is in a position ‘unlike perhaps any other they’ve ever been in before when it comes to regulating a product’
“In CBD and cannabinoids, we have group of products that could be classified as food, medicines, cosmetics or also (rightly or wrongly) a controlled drug and it’s already being sold on the market.
“Combine that uncertainty with the sheer volume of applications the FSA initially received – over 800 – and it’s easy to see why so many of their deadlines have come and gone.
“It does, however, feel like we’re in the final stretch now and I would hope to see a list of ‘validated’ and ‘on hold’ (i.e. not quite there but good enough to stay on the market) applications in the very near future. Hopefully they’ll give the industry an early Christmas present…?”
Mr Ogilvie also welcomed the Ms Miles thoughts in relation to enforcement action saying: “For many companies in the space, preparing a comprehensive novel foods dossier has represented a huge financial and time burden and it can be frustrating to observe other industry participants, who have not taken any steps to establish the safety of their CBD products, continue to market what are essentially unknown, unproven, products.
“The industry is still young; I’m of the opinion that the biggest threat to the CBD sector is the marketing of sub-par products. It’s not cheap for the average consumer and if their first experience of CBD is a second-rate product then the likelihood of that individual coming back to the category is slim. That’s a loss for the consumer and the industry.
Boosting Consumer Confidence
“Personally, I sympathise with the FSA. This has been no small task and it is still far from over. But soon we will have the updated public lists of ‘validated’ and ‘on-hold’ applications released… and it will be a historic day for CBD in the UK!
“The responsibility will soon begin to shift onto trading standards, environmental health officers and ultimately retailers to act and protect the consumer from illegitimate products. When this does happen, I expect that overall confidence in this sector and these products will skyrocket.”
Ms MIles went on to remind the industry there are still some hurdles to cross before its products could be fully authorised.
“For the products that are on the two lists we need to be clear that these products are still not formally authorised for sale and neither have they yet been assessed for safety.”
Just to recap, in February 2020 the FSA registered concerns that its advisors, the Committee on Toxicity, said there was ‘insufficient evidence to say whether CBD is safe or not’ and told the industry it had to comply with the Novel Food regulations
Speaking on behalf of the Board, Professor Susan Jebb, Chair of the FSA said: “The FSA has a duty to protect consumers. I want to take this opportunity to ask people to think carefully before taking CBD and to follow the FSA’s advice about CBD products.
“The FSA will not hesitate to take action if evidence emerges that products are unsafe and consumers at great risk.”
Ms Miles added: “My message to the CBD industry, and to retailers, is that you need to act responsibly when marketing and selling these products. And my message to local authorities is that, as products are rejected from our market authorisation process, you may need to step up enforcement efforts. The FSA will support you in this process.”
Writing on LinkedIn Tom Whettem, founder and CEO of British Cannabis, said: “(We) have provided enough scientific data to the FSA to enable them to do a scientific risk assessment for safety. You would have thought some confirmation of this would have been provided.
“I would still call for publication of unsuccessful applications… all 800-plus of them.”
To view the FSA proceedings click here. The CBD Novel Food section starts at 11.23
Main Image- Emily Miles