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UK delivers food safety deadline to CBD beverages

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The UK food safety watchdog has given CBD beverage companies until March next year to submit authorisation applications or face having their products taken off shelves.

CBD beverage producers largely welcomed the FSA ruling today

CBD beverage producers largely welcomed the FSA ruling today

In a ruling that was largely welcomed by the producers contacted by just-drinks today, the Food Standards Agency said any company that wants to use CBD in food and beverages must gain approval of the ingredient as a novel food. The deadline for submissions is 31 March next year. Companies will be allowed to continue selling CBD food and drinks until then.

The FSA warned that after the deadline, only products that had submitted a valid application would be allowed to remain on the market.

"CBD products are widely available on the high street but are not properly authorised," said FSA chief executive Emily Miles. "The CBD industry must provide more information about the safety and contents of these products to the regulator before 31 March 2021, or the products will be taken off the shelves."

The ruling also advised healthy people to "think carefully" before consuming CBD products, and not to exceed 70mg a day. Citing guidance from the UK Government's 'Committee on Toxicity', the FSA also advised those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking any medication not to consume CBD, which in the UK is mainly derived from hemp.

"The actions that we're taking today are a pragmatic and proportionate step in balancing the protection of public health with consumer choice," Miles said.

In a statement sent to just-drinks today, InTune CBD sparkling soft drink founder Hannah Glasson said she welcomes transparency in CBD, and that she is working with the Cannabis Trades Association to review the approach to novel foods in light of the FSA announcement.

However, Glasson questioned some parts of the ruling, and said it will likely cost her company in legal fees.

"Personally I would like to understand why the FSA is actively discouraging the use of CBD alongside other medicines," Glasson said. "What is the scientific basis for this new guideline?  I found CBD when I had treatment for breast cancer. It helped me to feel focused and to work all the way through that time. I would need to see a lot more hard evidence to support that advice.

"Lastly, whilst a lot of lawyers will see the benefits from today's news, for start-ups like us innovating in this space and showing complete transparency without legislation from above, this will be a major financial hit. Quotes so far range up to GBP100,000 (US$130,000)."

Elsewhere. Nicholas Pullen, the co-founder of CBD spirits producer Top Beverages, told just-drinks he "applauds the ruling" which will "weed out bad actors".

"I hope the government keeps demanding more and more transparency," Pullen said. "It should mandate that every ingredient should be disclosed, and independently lab tested, like we do at Top Beverages."

Asked about the high costs of testing products for start-up companies, Pullen said: "If you're not prepared to spend the money on having a safe product, then you shouldn't be selling it."

The guidance will affect the many UK beverage companies that have launched CBD products. However, it falls short of the ruling from the US Food & Drug Administration last year that threw the country's CBD industry into flux. In November, the FDA said it could not guarantee the safety of the cannabis-and-hemp-derived compound. A commentator at the time said the announcement effectively meant that in the US "just about everyone selling CBD in a food is breaking the law".

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