Everything you need to know about the FSA’s CBD list
Following two years of close collaboration between the Food Standards Agency and ACI, the initial list of permitted UK CBD products has been released. But there’s still more hurdles to come, and what does this mean for those that didn’t make the cut?
Earlier this week, the UK saw a major CBD milestone hit as it became the first country in the world to regulate the market for safe, orally consumed legal cannabis extracts.
The UK’s market for consumer CBD products was worth £690 million in 2021, according to trade body, Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) estimates. This is more than double the level of sales recorded in 2019, when the market was valued at £314 million,1 making the UK is the world’s second largest market for consumer CBD, with the US claiming top spot.
What does the FSA’s CBD list mean?
For CBD producers, the list that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has now collated is an essential stepping stone to becoming authorised in England and Wales, but it doesn’t mean that brands can rest easy just yet.
All CBD products must comply with other legislative requirements and should not be incorrectly labelled, unsafe and/or regarded as controlled substances.
It is worth noting that products designed to be inhaled, such as vapes, or applied to the skin, including cosmetics and massage oils, do not fall under the FSA’s remit. These were not assessed and will not appear on the list.
Still, UK shelves will now start to look a little sparser, as oral CBD products which do not meet the UK’s Novel Food requirements are removed. However, there is no guarantee that those that made the list will be authorised. This is because the products have not yet been fully assessed for safety.
But being on the list does mean that “the application is credible”, explained Emily Miles Chief Executive of the FSA. The agency will now be going through the process of sorting through the scientific evidence provided by the ‘green listed’ brands.
“I want to emphasise that the FSA is not endorsing products on the public list, and inclusion on the list is no guarantee that they will be authorised as they have not yet been fully assessed for safety,” said Miles.
So, if it doesn’t mean you’re authorised, what is the purpose of the list? Essentially, it means that local authorities, retailers and consumers can make informed judgments about what they stock and buy as the UK works to bring this sector into compliance. Full authorisation is expected in 2023.
Commenting on the public list, Steve Moore, ACI’s Founder, said it “demonstrates the progress the sector has made to meet compliance requirements and creates greater regulatory certainty which, in turn, will increase levels of consumer trust, encourage investment in the sector, and promote innovation”.
Adding to this, Raj Grover, the CEO of High Tide, an enterprise operating across Canada, Europe and the US described the list as a meaningful move towards “establishing a safe, transparent and regulated CBD industry”.
He continued: “The UK and greater European market are part of our ongoing strategy to diversify our revenue base by identifying opportunities and filling gaps in international cannabis markets through the organic expansion of our brands and products. For example, the German market that is poised to make up half of the EU cannabis market by 2024, according to Prohibition Partners. Our CBD business lines provide us with high-margin sales opportunities that allow us to further expand market share in our core business of brick-and-mortar cannabis sales by enhancing our consolidated margin profile. We look forward to full-scale inclusion and full regulatory registration in the UK market within the coming year.”
Products on the list have been undergoing assessment by the FSA, which was open to any CBD product designed for oral consumption on sale on or before 13 February 2020. Products that were launched after this date are not permitted for sale until they are granted full authorisation.
“We are proud to be among the very first to have our products recognised on the FSA list of products,” Blake Schroeder, CEO, Medical Marijuana Inc., said. “Publicly releasing this list of products like ours that have been submitted applications for novel food registration in the UK is just the first step the FSA must take to create a fully-regulated industry. Providing safe, free access to CBD around the world is our main goal and we know that our products will be used as examples of the high-quality standards other manufacturers should be following.”
Products not on the list must be removed
While the decision on enforcement of non-compliant novel foods remains with enforcement authorities, the FSA is recommending to local authorities that the products on the list marked as ‘Validated’ or ‘Awaiting evidence’ may stay on the market in England and Wales, pending further consideration. It is important to note that validation is not the same as authorisation and there’s no guarantee that a validated application will be authorised.
The ACI is working alongside Trading Standards to enforce the new rules immediately, with any company offering unlisted CBD products for sale facing possible action by its officers.
Businesses selling CBD products – including supermarkets, convenience stores, health food shops, pharmacies, online retailers, cafés and restaurants – will need to check their current stock against the list to ensure they’re compliant. To help with this, ACI has created a new website.
Of course, for some, the publication of this list will not be welcomed news. The ACI has stated that it recognises this and it is openly inviting those businesses who did not fulfil the requirements to reach out so they can understand the next steps they can take.
What about Ireland and Scotland?
For products on sale north of the border, these are subject to a separate authorisation process managed by Food Standards Scotland. However, in Northern Ireland, companies must continue to adhere to EU Novel Food rules and procedures as a result of Brexit protocols.
I still have more questions…
The FSA has also issued consumer advice on the consumption of CBD for healthy adults and vulnerable groups. Sellers of CBD should be aware of this information and be able to inform consumers on the recommended maximum daily limit for healthy adults.
If you have questions about the list of CBD products, you can email [email protected]. Queries on the authorisation process should be directed to [email protected] or [email protected]”>[email protected].