As stakeholders of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) expresses concerns in response to the FSA’s 10mg consumer advisory on CBD food products on Thursday 12th October 2023.
The latest consumer advisory, which is not enforceable in law or by Trading Standards, has suggested that a daily intake of 10mg of CBD would be deemed acceptable every day over a (healthy) person's lifetime. The nearest equivalence is Units of Alcohol which still causes consumers confusion, as this CBD advisory is likely to also do.
While the CTA acknowledges the FSA's intent, there are several significant issues that need to be addressed:
1. Clarity in Communication:
Nowhere in the FSA's press release does it explicitly state that this is advisory guidance. The lack of clear communication may lead consumers and retailers to interpret it as a mandatory limit, which it is not. CBD Foods already on the market currently adhering to the FSA daily dosage of 70mg per adult (set by the FSA in 2020 at the start of the Novel Foods process) are now in limbo. The CTA has been informed that there will be no re-labelling changes required by the food regulator (for now), however consumers and retailers are likely to be alarmed and confused by the latest advisory.
2. Confusion for Consumers and Retailers:
- In 2020, the FSA recommended a daily dosage of 70mg of CBD, and this sudden shift to 10mg as a consumer advisory may understandably cause concern and confusion among consumers.
- Retailers may be hesitant to stock CBD products based on this advisory, fearing potential legal implications.
- The advisory raises the risk of product delisting at retailers due to perceived regulatory non-compliance.
3. Increased Risk Profiling:
- The advisory will likely raise risk perception surrounding the UK CBD sector with increased risk profiling by banks, insurers, online platforms, advertising channels and investors.
- UK based CBD companies are moving their business out of the UK due to the poor regulatory environment. Former UK based CBD companies now sell internationally via multi-lingual websites hosted outside the UK.
- This advisory will do nothing to encourage growth, jobs, or tax revenues back into the UK. Over 50% of smaller CBD companies have failed since the FSA Novel Foods process started.
4. Limited Data Scope:
The data used for this advisory is based on isolated CBD (98%) and is derived from early studies, primarily in rats, not humans, and only for Isolated CBD products. This data was provided from applications as early as January 2020. This advisory may not apply uniformly to distillate or full-spectrum CBD products. The data considered by the scientific panels is over three years old, has not been scientifically peer reviewed. The panel chose not to include more up-to-date studies of CBD trials in humans available before issuing this advisory.
5. Unenforceable Advisory:
It is important to note that this is an advisory and not legally enforceable by Trading Standards or any other regulatory body.
6. Financial Implications:
Implementing this advisory will require significant financial resources and time for businesses supplying CBD food, increased costs in product reformulations, re-labelling, and repackaging.
7. Lack of Authorised CBD Extracts:
It is concerning that, despite the four-year Novel Foods process, there are still no legally authorised CBD extracts in the UK market. The CTA and CBD industry were expecting a more comprehensive, evidence-based regulatory guidance from the FSA, than the advisory produced today.
8. Impact on the Industry:
belief that this advisory could further hinder the growth and development of the CBD sector, potentially stifling innovation, and economic progress. Since the FSA Novel Food Process began 4 years ago, not a SINGLE CBD food product has been authorised for sale in the UK.
While the CTA appreciates the FSA's efforts to provide guidance, the agency is urged to reconsider the clarity, timing, and scope of this advisory. It is essential that any recommendations are based on the most up-to-date and comprehensive research and consider the diverse range of CBD products available in the market.
The CTA remains committed to working collaboratively with regulatory authorities to ensure the responsible and sustainable growth of the CBD industry in the UK.