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New U.K. Kitemark Scheme To Comply With Novel Food Rules

Written by Peter McCusker

Further evidence U.K. CBD companies will have to comply with the E.U. Novel Food directive have emerged in the last few days.

Following a press release from the Centre for Medical Cannabis (CMC) saying it is looking to launch a new CBD Kitemark scheme, in collaboration with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) – CBD Testers contacted the CMC and the FSA.

This is what the CMC told us: “We have had a clear message from the FSA that the industry can no longer operate in the legal grey-area in which it currently sits. No current initiatives focus on legal compliance, which is necessary for an industry of this scale. We are currently working with FSA, and members, on the details of the kitemark and more specifics will be announced early Q4.

Authorities Seeks Novel Food Compliance

Its earlier press release, which prompted the follow up questions, it outlined its position on the new Kitemark scheme; ‘The Cannabinoid Industry Quality Charter’.

“The (Kitemark) move comes following a series of high-level meetings with senior officials in U.K. government departments and regulatory agencies which they clearly highlighted the need for ‘novel foods’ compliance in order for products containing CBD to be fully legal in the U.K. marketplace.”

Just to recap, quickly, in January this Year the E.U. ruled CBD a ‘Novel Food’ and those who make and sell CBD need to secure an authorization from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

This costs a minimum of £200,000 and the European Industrial Hemp Association has led the way in demonstrating that cannabis, and CBD have been in use across Europe, and elsewhere for thousands of years – and therefore should not be classified as ‘novel’.

With CBD retailers fearful U.K. Trading Standards officers are poised to pounce and strip their shelves of product all eyes are focused on the FSA.

CBD Sales Cannot Continue

The FSA is the regulatory body responsible for ensuring compliance with E.U. and U.K. government regulations and it is playing a waiting game, saying it is working with the industry on developing a ‘proportionate response’. It told CBD Testers that this position hasn’t changed and its spokesperson added: ‘(we are) currently considering the best way to allow CBD food-related products currently on the market to move towards compliance. 

Continuing: “This will include the timely provision of acceptable safety information, without which sales of the product to the consumer could not continue. We will update our position when we have completed those considerations.” And, it also provided CBD Testers with the following, attributed to Michael Wight, Head of Food Safety Policy at the FSA.

Pleased to See Novel Food Compliance

“We are aware of the Cannabinoid Industry Quality Charter launched by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis and are pleased it advocates compliance with the Novel Food Regulations.

“CBD extracts are considered novel foods under E.U. law and we expect companies to comply with the novel foods process, which includes providing safety information to the EFSA in support of their specific products. We will continue to monitor food safety aspects of CBD and will undertake further risk assessments if needed.”

The FSA confirmed it has spoken to all of the main trade bodies including; The Cannabis Trades Association (CTA), CannaPro, The European Industrial Hemp Association, The British Help Association and the CMC.

Smokescreen For Regulation

The largest of these is the CTA, with over 900 members. It believes the Novel Food ruling it little more than a ‘smokescreen for the authorities to clamp down’ on the unregulated CBD industry.

Its chairman Mike Harlington recently told CBD Testers that ‘in conjunction with EFSA’ it is working on on a ‘legal route, that doesn’t involve a (Novel Food) application, is more likely to eventually lead to market stabilisation, and isn’t going to take 2 years plus to happen’.

CannaPro, which likewise has its own regulatory standard, has recently cancelled the certificate of one company for compliance failures. Peter Reynolds, of CannaPro, believes the latest developments show how quickly the industry is changing.

Most Businesses Will Not Survive

“It was the small businesses that built this industry and while some of them will still survive, most will not. Many of these, and their trade bodies such as ourselves, want to resist Novel Foods, and the EIHA has done some excellent work on this, but the industry is now being taken over by big business.”

He went on to say that the CMC is a relatively new entrant into the CBD arena and it has been successful in securing high-profile media coverage for its initiatives due to its ‘wealthy backers and well-honed PR machine’.

However, he believes there may still be some breathing space for CBD companies with the U.K.’s looming Brexit proving too much of a distraction for regulatory agencies and government. Mr Reynolds said: “They really don’t know what to do, until October 31, when we will be out or there will be a further delay. 

Brexit Breathing Space

“So I don’t think anything’s going to happen until then, and even after that the chances of any significant enforcement measures against small shops won’t happen, and we’ll more than likely trundle along.” But looking ahead to the future he sees the CBD industry changing ‘significantly’.

He added: “Longer term it is quite clear that from now on CBD is for big business and there will three to four major producers, with Novel Food authorisations, delivering white label products, with all the big retailers getting on board.”

The FSA would not be drawn when pressed by CBD Testers for any guidance regarding timelines for potential changes to its existing stance.

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About the author

Peter McCusker

Peter McCusker is an experienced news and business editor, who believes it’s time to fully embrace the multiple, proven, medical benefits of the cannabis plant.