Earlier this year, there were some worrying reports about the future of CBD (Cannabidiol) in UK, or to be more specific, the use of CBD in food and drink products. This is a fast-growing market in the UK. There are a raft of CBD drink products, including High Flyer – an Indian pale ale (IPA) craft beer with a 4.3% ABV, containing 10mg CBD in each bottle, and the hemp infused Canna’B Gin & Canna’B Rum products from Wee Hemp Spirits. Alongside these high-end products, there are countless CBD cafes up and down the country that sell both CBD edibles and ‘shots’ of CBD in cups of tea or coffee.
It’s clear CBD food and drink goods are a huge market in the UK and set to get bigger as people become more aware of the benefits of CBD. Many people prefer to consume CBD in this manner as including CBD in food and drink products makes them seem more appealing to the consumer, helping to mask or complement the herbal taste of full-spectrum CBD.
What Are Novel Foods?
Of course, all food items have to be authorised before going on sale, but under EU regulations, CBD products classed as ‘novel foods’ would need to go through an extra layer of rigorous testing, including stringent tests to ensure they contain the ingredients listed. These means that only the most well-funded businesses could afford to cover these costs and survive, destroying many of the smaller companies that make up a large proportion of the CBD market in the UK.
But what are ‘novel foods’? According to the European Commission, novel food is defined as food that had not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the EU before 15 May 1997, when the first regulation on novel food came into force. This can be newly developed, innovative food; food produced using new technologies and production processes; as well as food which is or has been traditionally eaten outside of the EU.
Sellers of CBD products to be ingested will have to apply for a new novel foods license. Each novel food application is individually assessed and this may lead to more checks before it is approved or denied by the European Food Safety Authority. In other words, this new legislation means that foods with cannabinoids could be excluded from the European market and removed from sale until the approval process to permit their use is completed. If the new legislation goes through, producers will be unable to sell cannabis edible products for up to 18 months. And if Brexit goes ahead the process will continue as the UK intends to transfer these EU rules into UK law.
But there’s no need to panic or stockpile CBD edibles. As a spokesman from CTA UK points out, “It’s guidance only, not law, and will likely pave the way to regulation – which is long overdue.” This Novel Foods Directive is currently being challenged, meaning it isn’t having any impact on the market as yet, and indeed many observers doubt that it’ll be strictly applied to CBD food and drink.
CBD Companies in the UK Should Tread Carefully
This doesn’t mean that companies are in the clear. The recent high-profile police raid on the hemp restaurant Canna Kitchen is an example of how companies trading on hemp-based food products should be very careful. Canna Kitchen have been accused of being reckless in how they marketed their business, based on them repeatedly making not-so-subtle references to cannabis and THC – which are, of course, illegal in the UK.
Many observers believe this behaviour is what led to the police raid, which ultimately closed the restaurant down. The legal case is ongoing, but it sends a warning sign to other companies who are trading on the links between CBD and cannabis. There are calls from all sides for clearer regulation when it comes to CBD, hemp and cannabis. Some people are calling for the legalisation of cannabis, as seen across America in recent years, while others want stricter regulation to protect consumers from unsavoury characters who are taking advantage of CBD’s high media profile to sell ineffective or even illegal products.
But if the regulations described above are passed, it won’t affect the sale of CBD products for external use, such as face washes and cosmetics. So it can’t be described as a blanket ban on CBD in general, which should come as a source of comfort to those who use CBD topically.
Could Regulation Help?
It’s clear that the UK CBD industry is in a state of flux. Regulations are unclear and there are various grey areas, plus the links to recreational drug use mean unprincipled businesses tend to play on this in an attempt to appeal to more users. These practices put the UK CBD industry at risk as cannabis is illegal in this country and there are few signs of this changing any time soon.
While food and drink products containing CBD might be a useful way of reaching a wider market, and making CBD more palatable, and even enjoyable, businesses selling these products need to be very careful of how they market them. Portraying it in the wrong way can lead to increased police attention – as the owners of Canna Kitchen found out to their cost. CBD is a substance that many thousands of people across the nation find useful, and while we await clear regulatory guidelines it’s unwise to put the industry at risk by associating it with illegal drug use.