Many companies may have already invested in the application process. This involves submitting 90-day toxicity data which can cost between £300,000 and £1 million. The ACI previously set up a safety consortium to help its members compile their Novel Foods applications at a lesser cost.
Businesses need to submit, and have fully validated, novel food authorisation applications by 31 March 2021. After this date, according to the UK Food Standards Agency, “only products which were on the market at the time of our announcement on CBD (13 February 2020) and for which the FSA has a validated application will be allowed to remain on the market”.
New brands, or those whose Novel Foods application was not validated before 31 March 2021, will need full authorisation of their product to enter the market. CBD products without a validated novel foods application will be illicit.
The ACI’s partnership with Trading Standards will allow its members to seek advice from the officials responsible for enforcing a soon-to-be compliant market. It will also be launching a retail advisory service to ensure retailers are aware of which products are compliant to ensure that they only stock compliant CBD.
Trading Standards, meanwhile, will monitor products on the market and maintain a National Intelligence Database to support their officers. ACI has also agreed to run educational webinars and develop literature to enable Trading Standards officers to recognise non-compliant CBD products sold in the UK.
ACI Innovation Director Leila Simpson said: “This will enable us to ensure our members are getting the best available advice to help raise the standards of the industry and more easily share with the regulator about non-compliant products after the Novel Foods 31st March 2021 deadline."
Andy Pollard, Deputy Team Manager – Business Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards, explained that non-compliant products should be voluntarily removed from the shelves by the suppliers and retailers. “Selling non-compliant products is an offence under The Novel Foods (England) Regulations 2018, when considered against local enforcement policies such activities may result in an investigation and any of a range of sanctions from advice through to prosecution,” he told FoodNavigator.
“We don’t yet know the levels of enforcement or whether it is likely to be local, regional or nationally organised and whether it will be proactive or in response to complaints,” he added.
Consumers can complain to the national consumer advice service (0808 223 1133) and this information is shared with trading standards. Members of ACI will be able to share intelligence and concerns with the ACI who will collate and share with Buckinghamshire and Surrey trading standards
Northern Ireland confusion
The ACI confirmed that UK regulations will not apply to CBD products in Northern Ireland, which must continue to follow EU law.
“The EU law that applies to Northern Ireland after the transition period is specified in Annex II to the Northern Ireland Protocol,” explained Simpson. “This means that if you’re seeking an authorisation for a CBD product to be placed on the Northern Ireland market you will have to continue to follow EU rules and its authorisation procedures.”
To sell a CBD food and beverage product in the EU, which has just backed down on its threats to classify CBD an illegal narcotic, you must submit a Novel Foods application to the European Food Standards Authority.
Meanwhile, it’s felt that the UK approach is potentially less onerous than the EFSA one, and the ACI believes it consortium is ‘well positioned for a European submission’ owing to an important difference in approach by the two regulatory authorities. In the UK, submissions can be made with a commitment to generate the required data in the future. EC representatives have advised, however, that full datasets would be required before submitting a dossier in order to have it evaluated.
‘A major step towards building consumer confidence in the industry’
Through its partnership with Trading Standards, the ACI hopes to raise the quality standards of CBD for sale in the UK as well as providing its members with the peace of mind that their business activity is backed up by Trading Standards.
There has been concern in some quarters that the that regulatory confusion that exists between EU and UK might shy consumers away from CBD products. Simpson, however, said the UK deadline would foster consumer support for CBD products.
“We believe that consumers should be aware of the integrity of products they are consuming, and we have seen products containing no CBD and various other contaminants being stocked in major UK high street retailers. Novel Foods addresses whether particular CBD formations are safe for human consumption and have been manufactured according to good practise,” she said.
“Of course, some consumers may find their favourite CBD products become unavailable - but the likely reason for this is that their supplier is not working towards demonstrating their product is safe. There are many other options of CBD to choose from, with suppliers working towards safety and compliance.”
The ACI further believes the 31 March transition will continue to forge CBDs move into the mainstream. Its market sizing report from 2019 estimated the market to be worth £1B by 2025, and it still expects the legal cannabinoid sector to have significant growth.
“After the deadline we expect retailers, especially large chains, to only stock products that are legally compliant," Simpson told us. "As more retailers have the confidence to stock CBD, thanks to legal clarity, this will make purchasing CBD products easier for consumers so will likely drive more sales through these channels. This will also boost confidence of consumers that they can trust these products, so we expect a continued upward trend for CBD sales.”