The hemp plant, Cannabis sativa L., contains more than 500 chemical compounds, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD. THC is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis (also Cannabis sativa L.), while CBD seems not to have any psychotropic effects, but may have certain therapeutic effects.
On 1 February 2019, The European Commission amended the entry for CBD in the EU Novel Foods Catalogue. This does not affect some products derived from the Cannabis sativa L. plant or plant parts, such as seeds, seed oil, hemp seed flour and defatted hemp seed, which have a history of consumption in the EU and, therefore, are not novel.
However, food businesses have been unable to prove that there is a significant history of consumption of CBD in food prior to May 1997 in the EU.
Under the EU novel foods regulations, therefore, extracts of Cannabis sativa L. and derived products containing cannabinoids (including CBD) are considered novel foods and need to be evaluated and authorised before they are permitted to be placed on the EU market.
This applies to the extracts themselves and any products to which they are added as an ingredient, and to extracts of other plants containing cannabinoids. In light of this, the Food Standards Agency has said it is considering how to achieve compliance in a proportionate manner.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has stated that CBD-containing products, taken for a medicinal purpose, should be treated as medicines and need to be licensed as such.
Helen Arrowsmith is principal food law adviser at Campden BRI.