CBD oil has been making big waves in the wellness world recently and has become a very popular supplement; advocates claim it helps manage anxiety, insomnia, muscle and joint pain. However a decision by British and European food watchdogs mean it now has to be reclassified as a novel food. This requires an approval process which could take a year and a half, during which time all products containing CBD oil must be removed from sale.
The move by Britain's FSA to remove CBD food products from sales follows on from a submission (not an official ruling) that has been added to the Novel Foods catalogue by the European Commission's Working Group of Novel Foods for the term 'Cannabinoids' which now states:
"..extracts of Cannabis sativa L. and derived products containing cannabinoids are considered novel foods as a history of consumption has not been demonstrated."
"This applies to both the extracts themselves and any products to which they are added as an ingredient (such as hemp seed oil). This also applies to extracts of other plants containing cannabinoids. Synthetically obtained cannabinoids are considered as novel."
The amendment to the catalogue was pushed by media reports identifying the UK, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands as countries asking for an update to be made, citing concerns over regulation of CBD and hemp-derived products as the reason for it.
CBD oil is derived from the cannabis plant but contains none of the psychoactive component known as THC. It is been perfectly legal to sell on the high street and on-line however the call to have it classified as a novel food will force sellers to show that the oil is safe and has the effect claimed. A product is defined as a novel food if it cannot be shown to have been in long term and safe use before 1997.
Britain's FSA has pushed the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) to classify CBD oil and, potentially, some hemp extract products, as a novel food. The FSA said it will now take action to block sales. A spokesman said: 'We are putting in transition measures to aid enforcement
All novel foods must be authorised by the European Commission before they can be sold in the EU. The process will continue after Brexit as the UK intends to transfer the EU rules into UK law, according to media reports.
Dr Sarah Brewer, medical nutritionist and health journalist, said:
'Cannabidiol oil has direct effects on the endocannabinoid system in the brain, enhancing the effects of other brain chemicals to reduce pain perception, relieve anxiety and stress, improve sleep and lift mood.
'It is also a powerful antioxidant which suppresses inflammation.'
She further added that the new classification by the EFSA was for regulatory/technically reasons rather than safety reasons:
"Given that there is uncertainty on the future free availability of CBD supplements, I'd recommend that people who find it beneficial for well-being continue as previously by ordering from a trusted supplier and continue to take their CBD oil."
"With all the change taking place there is still a great deal of misunderstanding and misleading information about CBD Oil on the market."
In June 2018, findings published by the World Health Organization concluded that CBD is 'generally well tolerated with a good safety profile'.
Other food groups that have gone through assessment under the Novel Food Regulation and passed include Chia Seeds, Krill Oil and Vitamin K.