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In a seemingly overnight turn of events, the European Commission has announced that food and beverage items containing cannabidiols (CBD) are now considered novel food items. Novel foods, which are classified as goods not widely consumed before May of 1997, are regulated at higher rates than other goods on the UK food market.

Such stringent regulation could seriously hinder the health food market’s ability to produce products containing CBD. This decision has left many UK health food businesses at a loss, since the growth and popularity of CBD goods has exploded within the past year.

According to the Food Standards Agency, “Food businesses have not been able to show there was a significant history of consumption of these products in food and food supplements prior to May 1997 in the EU.” However, many businesses disagree, citing years of CBD use and recent scientific backing that CBD is beneficial to many health problems.

Confusion surrounding CBD, as well as hemp and hemp-derived products, has existed for decades, despite scientific and authoritative reports citing the benefits of use, as well as the safety of such compounds. Within the past year, CBD popularity has skyrocketed, with hundreds of individuals praising its ability to help alleviate their ailments. Companies and consumers alike are shell-shocked at this development and are worried about what it means for their business and well-being, respectively.

In a response to the European Commission’s reclassification of CBD products, the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) has stated that:

Rather than consult food businesses on the presence of products on market before May 1997, as would be expected, the Commission announced its new position on CBD as part of a general update to their Novel Food Catalogue. They have given no further explanation, do not appear to have consulted with stakeholders as they are required to do, and are seeking to apply what would in effect be a blanket requirement for approval rather than considering products on a case-by-case basis, which is the required approach.

Little detail or clarification has been provided to those in the health food industry surrounding the recent change, but the HFMA has managed to secure a meeting to discuss the recent changes. Those in the health food industry can only hope that some of their questions can soon be answered.

Since the announcement in late January, there has been little to no update from the European Commission or the Food Standards Agency. Health food companies wait for an update that could seriously impact their revenue and ability to give their customers the products they desire. Despite the fact that it will become more difficult for consumers to find products with CBD, the rapid and increased popularity of the compound suggests that this is a conversation that will continue for the foreseeable future.