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The UK’s Food Standards Agency Updates its CBD Novel Foods Criteria

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Mar 12, 2021   
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The UK’s leading CBD regulator has clarified its incoming set of rules around CBD foods.

Last February, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced that all CBD businesses operating in England and Wales must have a novel foods application “validated” by March 31, 2021, or risk having their CBD oils, drinks, and treats “taken off the shelves.”

Now, with just over two weeks left until the deadline, the FSA has clarified that all applications just have to be “submitted” by March 31, 2021.

This new phrasing gives added leniency to the novel foods application process and could offer some CBD companies relief if they were concerned about having their application validated in time.

Two weeks to go

“Applying for novel food authorisation is the only way CBD products can remain on sale here,” Emily Miles, the chief executive of the FSA, said in a statement following the new guidance.

“For the past year, we’ve been encouraging all businesses to submit good quality applications as a matter of urgency. However, we have received a large number of applications close to the deadline. This means that, in order to process these properly, we are adapting the criteria of products allowed to remain on sale from 1 April.”

The FSA’s announcement also clarified that all novel foods applications are subject to an 8-day admin check, followed by a validation process that could take up to 30 working days. However, the agency notes that “validation is not the same as authorization” and there is no guarantee that a validated application will eventually be authorized.

“Passing an admin check only means that an application is able to move on to the validation stage, it does not give an indication of whether it will be validated,” an FSA spokesperson told Analytical Cannabis. “Validated applications may not end up being authorised if the information provided does not allow the independent expert scientific committees to assess safety.”

“Applications which do not meet the criteria required to pass the admin check are given feedback on information missing and invited to resubmit,” the spokesperson added.

The agency also announced that, once the March 31 deadline has been passed, a list of CBD products linked to validated applications will be published on the FSA’s website and regularly updated.

The response

The FSA’s updated guidance has been applauded by key figures in the UK’s CBD industry.

“Today’s update from the FSA is a welcome one,” said Shomi Malik, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry’s (ACI) external affairs director. “The 31st March deadline is now for submission, rather than validation.”

The ACI, which represents several high-profile UK CBD companies, announced that it had submitted its own set of novel foods applications to the FSA on February 16. As of March 12, the total number of applications received by the FSA is unclear, but data is available from late February.

“As of 28 February, we had received 404 applications for CBD products, 89 of which passed the initial administrative check and 138 had been assessed and not passed the admin check,” an FSA spokesperson told Analytical Cannabis. “Other applications were either being processed or were paused while we requested further information.”

Even with just two weeks to go until the March 31 deadline, many working in UK’s CBD sector are still unsure what exactly a novel foods application requires.

“It has gotten extremely complicated and extremely confusing,” Wendi Young, president of Triverity Laboratories, a cannabinoid testing company with labs in Colorado and Northern Ireland, told Analytical Cannabis last month. “From whether or not brands need an application, to what really the February 2020 requirement of being on the market means. Is it product related? Is the product the ingredients? Or is it [down to] the brands that use that?”

“You ask the FSA, and you get an answer, and you feel like you understand that answer,” she said. “And then you hear that somebody else got one that could be interpreted completely opposite.”

Further transparency on what applications should include will likely come after March 31. For now, companies can at least rest assured that a submission before that date is all that’s immediately required.


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