CBD & Novel Foods: The Changing Regulatory Landscape

Honestly speaking, regulation has long been overdue for our industry.

Over the last 16 months, the UK CBD industry has seen many changes take place. In January 2020, the European Commission classified CBD as a novel food, a verdict which would dramatically influence the future of the European CBD industry. One month later, on February 13th, 2020, the European Foods Standards Association (EFSA) announced that this new verdict would come into effect as of 31st March 2021. This means that today, any CBD product sold as a “food supplement” (i.e. any form of ingestible CBD) has to comply with the novel food act – which requires an approved application. Whilst the industry has been in need of stricter regulatory laws, the approach taken by regulators has raised a few eyebrows…and rightly so.

Novel Foods – what we like, what we don’t and everything in between.

A ‘novel food’ simply refers to any food without a history of widely documented consumption before May 1997. And although it is fair to say that CBD products, as we see today, have only become popularised in recent years, the notion that CBD does not have a history of widely documented consumption is a contentious one.

The reality is that hemp consumption has been a part of our diet for thousands of years. Evidence suggests that human consumption of cannabis dates back some 2500 years ago. Even before it became widely recognised as one of the ““five grains” of China, and thus a major food crop”, we know that the Taiwanese chose to use hemp fibers to spin into the first fabrics, thereby providing the first alternative to animal skin for clothing.

But is consuming hemp and consuming a by-product of hemp, like CBD, the same thing?

Well that’s exactly why the notion of CBD being a novel food is a contentious one…

CBD Extraction is a complex & expensive process

Many people within the industry share the view that because CBD is a by-product of hemp, and hemp has been consumed for thousands of years then, by extension, CBD should not be seen as novel food. Others, including the regulators, argue that because hemp must go through a process of extraction to obtain CBD, that process in itself signifies the creation of an entirely new product.

So is Treed compliant and how do we feel about the regulatory changes?

Honestly speaking, regulation has long been overdue for our industry. We have always championed the need for regulation to ensure that only safely-produced, high-quality CBD products exist on the market, and in many respects, Treed was founded because of our own inability to consistently find high-quality products. We have taken every necessary step towards compliance and our supplier was specifically selected because we understood that they shared our vision around consumer health & safety well before the European Commission opened their discussions around the need for CBD to be classified as a novel food. Today, our supplier is currently the only CBD supplier to be BRCGS approved across the whole of Europe.

Many people don’t know this but the CBD industry has been somewhat of a Wild Wild West the last few years. A 2019 study done by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) found that over 60% of CBD products sold both online, and on the UK high street, did not contain the CBD content levels that they claimed to have. In other words, the majority of products on the market were misleading consumers.

Put simply, there are so many bad CBD products available, and that gives the industry a bad reputation. Being an extension of the cannabis industry, it’s already tough enough changing attitudes towards the plant, and a bunch of lousy brands with bad CBD products just makes our job harder.

In saying that, at Treed, we pride ourselves on leading with science and with data. Because we understand the science behind the plant, and the medicinal and recreational benefits it can bring, it has been challenging at times to understand the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) rationale behind some of the details around compliance in order to obtain a successful application.

So what does this all mean for you?

It is still yet to be seen how exactly these new regulations will manifest themselves over the next 18 months. We know that there will be several companies (manufacturers, suppliers, & brands alike) who are trying to avoid compliance because of the amount of work, time, and money that is involved in making the appropriate changes. However, we recognise that we want a healthier, safer future for our industry, and we know that to continue to transform attitudes towards cannabis, we need regulation in place to instill wider public confidence.

Over these next 18 months, we are confident that change will continue to be a dominating theme in the industry, and CBD businesses will need to respond. The bottom line is that trust, transparency, honesty & quality have always been our core values as a business. We know we have a conscious, responsible customer base, so this is just an update so you can rest assured that your favourite UK CBD brand is at the forefront of the latest developments in the industry. We believe that you all deserve nothing less.

If you are curious about any of our products, or would like to know more information about how CBD could support better overall health & wellbeing, drop us a message using our chat box in the corner and one of our team will help you with any questions you may have. If you’re interested in taking CBD for the first time, we recommend downloading our Beginners Guide & trying our Balance CBD Oil

Jonathan Machado (Co-Founder)