UK CBD food sector celebrates as FSA publishes list of allowable products

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

CBD is hailed as highly versatile ingredient that can be put into a wide variety of food and beverage products. Image: Getty/Vanessa Nunes
CBD is hailed as highly versatile ingredient that can be put into a wide variety of food and beverage products. Image: Getty/Vanessa Nunes

Related tags CBD and Hemp Fsa

The UK hopes to be at the vanguard of CBD innovation and investment after the country’s Foods Standards Agency created a list of more than 3,500 food products permitted for sale to consumers.

These products will now go on to be assessed by the FSA for safety before being placed on the market, expected in 2023.

The move ends a regulatory bottleneck for the industry which began when the sector was given a deadline of 31 March 2021 to submit Novel Food applications for CBD products on the market, after which a public list of CBD products permitted for sale to consumers would be released.

It was hoped the list would be released early in 2022, but delays have frustrated the industry, with many complaining that retailers, for example, were unwilling to promote CBD products without regulatory clarity.

The long-awaited list was first published in April 2021 but is now complete. The FSA hopes it will allow retailers and consumers to now make informed judgments about what they stock and buy.

“The CBD market is growing rapidly,”​ said FSA Chief Executive Emily Miles. “The FSA has been working to move the CBD industry into compliance. Today we have taken the next step in our pragmatic approach to making sure CBD products are safe and what they say they are. If a product is not on the list, it should be removed from sale because it is not attached to a credible application to us for market authorisation.”

New opportunities for approved products

Only those CBD products featured on the list have been given the green light by the FSA to stay on the market. Products not included must now be removed from shelves.

Steve Moore, Founder the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) the UK’s CBD sector trade body, estimated ‘thousands’ of products will have to be removed, which will create opportunities for those companies with permitted products. “Those on the list should be able to confidently begin to reengage with retailers regarding how they promote and market their products,”​ he said.

“The clarity that list gives should give retailers confidence to resume some marketing plans around these products.”

The ACI is keen to support CBD businesses that had failed to make it onto the list, Moore added. “At this moment in time, we understand that, for some CBD businesses, the news will not be positive, and we openly invite those businesses to contact us at ACI to understand their next steps within this fledgling and rapidly growing market. We are here to support this industry and its community to thrive.”

The drawing up of the list, he stressed, draws a line under the frustration experienced in the industry for the past two years and will ultimately reassure investors and consumers.

“I think investors needed the reassurances they got from the FSA today regarding the safety of these products before they can consider where they’re investing. There is virtually almost no institutional investment in this product category, compared to medicinal cannabis, where there’s much more, so this category needs this kind of reassurance.”

A key milestone for the industry

“The FSA public list represents a major milestone for the UK’s CBD category,”​ continued Moore. “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.”

The UK’s market for consumer CBD products was worth £690 million in 2021, according to ACI estimates – more than double the level of sales recorded in 2019, when the market was valued at £314 million. The UK is now the world’s second largest market for consumer CBD, behind only the US.

The health benefits of CBD

CBD is oil or powder derived from the cannabis plant that can be added as an ingredient in food and beverages. It doesn’t get you high. Studies continue to show it may be an effective treatment for epilepsy and may prove to be an option for, among other things, managing anxiety, insomnia, inflammation, arthritis, and even HIV symptoms. But these studies are as yet inconclusive. With the exception of Epidiolex, the first and only prescription CBD medicine approved by the FDA in the US which is used to treat seizures, no medical claims can yet be made on any products.

The ACI hails CBD as a highly versatile ingredient, which, if used in the correct way, can be put into a wide variety of food and beverage products. This means it can be incorporated into the public's everyday dietary habits in foods that are consumed regularly, expanding the market even further.

‘Clarity for our brand and our consumers’

CBD brand Love Hemp, which is included on the FSA’s list, is now well positioned to accelerate its growth plans.

Adam Pritchard, Chief Commercial Officer of Love Hemp, said: “The CBD industry in the UK has been largely unregulated, resulting in a lack of clarity for our consumers, and we welcome progress made to date by the FSA.

“The FSA’s latest Public List endorses all of the brand’s submitted products and enables Love Hemp to continue to trade legally. Importantly, the FSA’s decision also provides clarity for consumers.

“We continue to work closely with the FSA and look forward to the next stage of the process, proceeding to validation followed by full approvals.”

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