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EU Novel Food and The Legal Status of CBD Oil

Written by Brian Cusack

There have been times when the Cannabidiol market in Europe suffered neglect because its safety for consumption was in doubt. However, in recent times, we have witnessed experts express that there is hope for cannabis products.

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Research results conducted by market experts, reveals that despite past and present hurdles, the European CBD market is going to experience a boom in the very near future. Speaking about past and present hurdles, the Cannabidiol (CBD oil) market has had to face things like the need for licenses to be attached to its medical products, and there is the current hurdle of the Novel Food status that is attached to its food and products.

The Novel Food Commission

With that said, the novel food status wave began in 2016. In that year, it was announced at the Novel Food Commission meeting held in Brussel that CBD products would soon be regarded as Novel food. Following that, by January 2019, the same decision was announced that the European Food Safety Association (EFSA) will enlist CBD oil and other CBD products in the Novel food catalog. This decision was implemented soon after.

This current state of things has given a rise to questions regarding the legality of CBD oil in the EU.  In answer to the legality of CBD oil, we would explain what novel food really is, how the EFSA’s decision directly affects the legality of CBD oil in the European Union, and if CBD products have been abused in recent times.

The Concept Of Novel Food Status Explained

There are certain foods currently in the market that possess no significant history of consumption, but are presently attempting to attain mass consumption. Such products that lack a significant history of consumption are novel foods. By history of consumption we mean that prior to May 1997, it was not widely consumed in the European Union.

An example of such food is the bread that is baked through the use of ultraviolet rays. Despite the fact that it possesses a good amount of vitamin D, it has no history of being consumers favorite dough and batter treat with historical records of mass consumption. This of course is because it is produced through the use of a newly invented technological process. Going on, novel foods also includes foods that are consumed in only a handful of countries outside the European Union.

Having said that, asides from the fact that novel foods are edibles that were not widely used before May 1997, there’s a couple of other principles that makes a food get listed among novel foods.

According to the European Union, the food should not negatively influence the consumer. Secondly, it should be totally safe for consumption. Lastly, if it is intended to be a replacement for another food, it should not have nutritional disadvantages, or be vastly different from the previous food in a way that will make the consumer experience nutritional deficits.

So, according to the provisions of the Novel Food Regulations,  foods that are enlisted in the Novel Food catalog will need to be examined and certified to be good for use before they are then sent to the market for sales.

The decision by the European Food Service Commission to include Cannabidiol on the list of Novel Foods is justified by the fact that it was not significantly consumed in the EU before May 1997. This has of course affected Cannabidiol products like CBD oil.

The Divergence From Medical to Food Supplements

Flowing from the above, you should understand that the drag on the suitability and legality of Cannabidiol products have been ongoing since a year after the production of Kanavape (a medical product) in 2015. In 2016, after the product had become widely popular and accessible online, especially in the U.K, the regulatory agency for medical and health products made it known that before a CBD product is advertised for treating medical conditions like spasms, and chronic pain, the product must first be licensed.

Being unable to meet the licensing regulations, the Cannabidiol market diverted from the production of medical products, to the production of food supplements. Shortly after such food supplements hit the market, the U.K’s Food and Standard Agency (FSA) initiated and announced a change in the regulations that govern novel food. The FSA clearly stated that if the CBD food supplements cannot be proven to have been satisfactorily consumed before May 1997, then they must be evaluated before they are authorized to be sold to consumers.

The team that is handling the novel food catalog has reported that CBD is obtained from cannabis sativa, and cannabis sativa has had no proper consumption prior to May 1997. So, CBD products and oils must be evaluated and certified safe before they are sold.

Moving Forward For Consumers Of CBD Oil Products

The Food Standard Agency has given no objection to CBD products being called novel food by the European Union. However, consumers have been advised to consult the list of novel foods whenever they need to be sure of if the Novel food regulations applies to a product that they wish to purchase. Also, the World Health Organization has recently reviewed the safety of CBD in relation to drug abuse and dependence.

The organization reported that no public health problems have arisen from the use of CBD products such as the CBD oil. So, the products are safe. All that’s needed is for the principles of novel foods to be met before these products are sold.

On a final note, while CBD oil and related products have not been strictly banned by the World Health Organization, Food Standard Agency and the European Union, the CBD market still has to subject its supplements to evaluation before they can be sold. The essence of such legality is to ensure that it won’t negatively influence the consumer, and that it is safe for consumption.

Read more about Novel Food Status here.

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  • This article is very misleading. It could well have been written by the PR department of the EU, the EFSA or the FSA. It meekly submits to the novel food designation without any challenge, consideration or explanation.

    Cannabidiol (CBD) per se has not been placed in the novel foods catalogue, the new entry is for cannabis extracts. It is nonsense to suggest that such extracts were not consumed prior to 1997, Evidence has been provided to the EU showing consumption of such extracts as long ago as the 12th Century.

    Neither does placing a food in the novel food catalogue create any new law or confer any new legal status. Such an entry is, in the EU’s own terms, “advisory”.

    The truth here is that we have a massive bureaucracy, at the behest of big business interests, seeking to interfere in a market for no good reason other than to exert control and effectively squeeze out the small businesses that have built this market on their own efforts.

  • Hi Brian

    an awful lot of what you have stated above is not correct.

    We can easily prove (and have done) on several occasions that hemp extracts are not Novel, and the FSA itself voted to allow the insertion of extracts onto the register.

    As the members states are aware, their actions are not legal and valid, it was pointed out to them in Brussels and again locally in every one of the 14 states I have personally visited.

    All except the UK authorities have since pledged support of the action of the CTA in that they will accept the evidence base we have provided (when presented in the correct format which has never been done) and 12 have agreed to back this position provided we give significant proof that sellers are marketing exclusively towards the foods sector and their products are proven to do so.

    As you are aware as a CTA member yourself, we have recently performed a full compliance sweep. As such we together with EIHA members are about to submit a submission to our chosen regulatory authority in Europe. This has been timed to coincide with a number of other factors and the support of the 12 other nations. We will be presenting the evidence that our members and those of EIHA all conform to the relevant legislation and as such are legal to sell. We are not presenting evidence from any other association nor can we represent them. We also cannot vouch for their data. As such we expect that most EU countries will allow our membership and that of EIHA to continue to sell products. Any other organisation will have to either follow the submission of a Novel Foods Application or submit the same data to the EU as we are doing.

    The fact is that cannabinoids that are not produced in exclusivity (i.e.not isolates) are not Novel, they are part of the natural chemical makeup of the plant and as such are not and cannot legally be deemed as Novel.

    On behalf of our 1100 or so members and several thousand sellers we are ensuring that this is the correct legal approach to take and that our membership and that of the EIHA are protected fully.

    • HI Mike
      Sorry for the wrong information. We are now updating the article to include all of the above.



  • “Cannabidiol oil is used for health purposes, but it is controversial. There is some confusion about what it is, and its effect on the human body.” (Cloud net 360)

About the author

Brian Cusack

For the last 3 years, I have been studying/working with CBD oil, as its mental health benefits had interested me in doing so. That interest led me to a passion, and with that passion I opened my own CBD oil company, called Dr. Hemp Me, owned in Ireland.

I attended University College Cork in Ireland, where I graduated with a master’s degree in business economics. I began working with others in the CBD oil industry, gathering information and resources to help progress the knowledge and usage of CBD oil. I am also a member of the Cannabis Trade Association, which is the biggest cannabis association in Europe. With my studies in both cannabis and business economics, I opened Dr. Hemp Me in July 2018.