Earlier this month, The Morning Advertiser reported about 'panic buying' consumers stocking up on cannabis-infused drinks after a proposed European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) ruling that could see cannabidiol (CBD) removed from shops and bars as it seeks to reclassify the products as ‘novel’.
A product is defined as a ‘novel’ food if it cannot be shown to have been in long term and safe use before 1997, but many have argued and given evidence that CBD has, in fact, been used since the year 1220.
Since the evidence came to light at the Novel Food Commission meeting held in Brussels, Belgium (12 March), the EFSA says it is reviewing its decision to classify cannabis-infused products as a novel food and took to Twitter to release a statement.
We are considering the way forward in light of this clarification at EU level. We are meeting with relevant industry representative bodies, local authorities and other stakeholders to clarify how to achieve compliance in the marketplace in a proportionate manner.— FoodStandardsAgency (@foodgov) January 30, 2019
Judging by the responses, many were left displeased with EFSA's decision to even hold a review in the first place.
Your conduct in this has been underhand, dishonest and it stretches the bounds of credulity that you could deem #cannabis, a plant that has been cultivated for longer than wheat or barley, as 'novel'. There has been no consultation and clearly a complete absence of common sense— Peter Reynolds (@TweeterReynolds) January 30, 2019
This is an utter joke. I’m not sure how much evidence you need? WHO have deemed CBD as safe and you’ve had a report from the EIHA saying it’s safe. You know as well as the rest of the industry knows how safe this is— Bnatural CBD UK (@bnaturalcbduk) January 30, 2019
Currently, the European Commission’s Working Group of Novel Foods catalogues the term CBD as "extracts of cannabis and derived products containing cannabinoids are considered novel foods as a history of consumption has not been demonstrated".
But, defending the popular natural remedy, the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) revealed "hard core" evidence that hemp and hemp extracts have been used as early as 1220 – well before May 1997 – thus ruling out its ‘novel’ food status.
The EIHA added that its evidence "clearly indicates" CBD oils are not novel and should, therefore, remain on shelves.
"Hemp extracts were indeed made and sold in products, which would nowadays be called supplements," an EIHA spokesperson explained.
"We are requesting the European Commission to recognise hemp extracts with naturally occurring CBD levels as traditional in food."
Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to label CBD as a novel food, will go some way to deciding how best to ensure compliance and safety in the marketplace.
Also defending the products' benefits was CBD oil producer and manufacturer CannabiGold, which explained CBD products are made "in the interest" of European consumers.
"Allowing the use of hemp extract in food products is perfectly safe and is in the interest of European consumer," a CannabiGold spokesperson exclaimed.
"Collected evidence clearly demonstrate that hemp leaves, flowers and whole plant hemp extract have a history of use prior to 1997 in Europe and there should be no doubt over their novel status."
Renowned nutritionist Fiona Lawson, working in collaboration with CannabiGold, added that as people become ever increasingly invested in maintaining their health, the popularity of CBD products will "no doubt increase".
The safety profile of CBD, however, has been well documented and widely accepted, with the World Health Organisation (WHO), labelling CBD as "generally well tolerated with a good safety profile".
"The committee recommended that preparations considered to be pure CBD should not be scheduled within the international drug control conventions," added a WHO spokesperson.
"There are no case reports of abuse or dependence relating to the use of pure CBD and no public health problems have ever been associated with CBD use."
If the decision to reclassify cannabis-infused products comes into play, under the new system, sellers would have to show that the oil, which can be taken in capsule form or by pipette, is safe and has the effect as claimed by manufacturers.