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Twin-Track Approach Can Solve Europe’s Novel Food Impasse

Written by Peter McCusker

The threat to Europe’s booming CBD market could be overcome by a twin-track approach to January’s punitive Novel Food thunderbolt, it has emerged.

This bold initiative, pioneered by the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), will see CBD isolates and extracts treated differently. Under European Union law, food that has not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the E.U. before 1997, is considered a Novel Food. 

In January 2019, without industry consultation, the European Commission ruled cannabidiol (CBD) a Novel Food.

End to CBD Product Threat?

While this directive is not legally binding, it effectively means CBD products on sale in Europe require a Novel Food authorisation – a time consuming process, which can cost upward of £300,000.

Wholesale enforcement of the CBD change has not started, while authorities in the 28-member E.U. states consider their next steps. But, if the European Commission accepts that extracts are not a Novel Food then the Novel Food threat to Europe’s booming CBD industry will be extinguished.

Speaking to CBD Testers at the U.K.’s Hemp & CBD Expo, in Birmingham, Lorenza Romanese, Managing Director of the EIHA, outlined the current position

Extracts Eaten For Many Years

“We have been speaking to member states and the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), and are looking at a twin-track approach to the classification of CBD as a Novel Food. 

“This involves making a distinction between extracts containing naturally occurring level of cannabinoids in the whole plant, and isolates. There is ample evidence to show hemp plant extracts – leaves and flowers – have been consumed as food for many hundreds of years.

“However the technology to be able to secure CBD isolates has only emerged recently, and as such there is a widespread agreement that these isolates are a Novel Food.

“We have a few member states that could support the EIHA with this approach, and one of these, an Eastern European country is preparing to take this forward in a bid to secure a widespread agreement on this position.”

‘Only Seeds’ Are Foods

January’s new Novel Food catalogue classification for hemp now stipulates that only ‘seed-derived products’ are classed as foods. The entry for cannabis sativa and Cannabidiol has been expanded to the following; ‘Food products made from leaves, flowers and all extracts containing cannabinoids are now considered as Novel Food’.

The authorities in some countries, notably Spain and few regions of southern Germany, have reacted by ordering the removal of CBD-derived products from stores. But the hemp industry has fought back by providing ample evidence of the inaccuracy of this statement in relation to the ‘green parts of the plant.

novel food
Possible good news for the European CBD industry

Single Market Convergence 

If the EIHA, and other trade bodies representing Europe’s cannabis industry, are able to secure widespread agreement on this twin-track approach it believes the rules of E.U Single Market will ensure regulatory convergence across the continent.

Ms Romanese continued: “One of the biggest achievements of Europe is certainly the Single Market, which guarantees the smooth circulation of goods and people. Unfortunately, when it comes to hemp-derived products Single Market does not exist! 

“Retailers face tremendous difficulties selling their goods and that’s because of the patchwork of different national legislations, and the lack of a stable Euro-wide regulatory framework. 

“The EIHA believe that if retailers are able to respect the naturally occurring  level of cannabinoids in the whole plant in the final products, that’s simply a food, or food supplement – which by definition is food – then no pre-market authorization is needed.”

Get Rid Of Isolates

She went on to say that the EIHA has collected many examples to show that humans have been consuming hemp for centuries and this consumption never ‘caused any trouble to people – and does, in fact, benefit us’.

Ms Romanese added: “It is important to note that the catalogue that has changed is not legally binding for member states. However due to the lack of regulations member states tend to follow it.” Speaking at the same conference the head of Europe’s largest cannabis industry body Mike Harlington, chairman of the Cannabis Trades Association, said it believes this twin-track approach is a workable solution.

He told CBD Testers that its advice to any of its near-1,000 members using isolates is to ‘get rid of the stock they have’. Mrs Romanese added: “If the member states will listen to us, we can remove the threat to Europe’s booming CBD industry.”

CBD Testers has contacted the European Commission for a comment on this and is awaiting a response.

Isolates Are Novel Foods

For hemp businesses looking to concentrate on CBD isolates the EIHA has created a consortium and is currently working on a Novel Food application. 

Ms Romanese continued: “Highly concentrated CBD – that is isolate CBD – according to our position is novel and will need a pre-market authorization.”

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  • We at the CTA are very much working with EIHA on this issue and discussed this. We are committed to reaching an agreement and then we shall inform all relevant parties.

    Since March we have been discussing with our legal teams the Novel Foods Issue. Following exhaustive risk assessments we came out with the following legal conclusions which have been confirmed by both SANTE and the 8 authorities we’ve been working with since then.

    If you submit a Novel Application you MUST remove your products off the market, it really is that simple. You have admitted that you think your products are Novel and as such they must be removed from sale until you have authorisation. You have no excuse under law, and you cannot refuse to remove them. There is no legal rebuttal of transitionary measure either.

    In fact there is only one legally correct way to deal with the Novel Issue. Something we discussed at great length with SANTE back in July. In a few weeks we will be making a legal submission under the provisions of Article 4 forcing a decision. We have huge political support for our submission and as such we are confident of the outcome.

    ANYONE suggesting that you submit a Novel Application for CBD products is condemning YOUR business to death for a minimum period of 15 months. You have to question why they are doing this…there is only 1…and thats MONEY!

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.