Products containing the cannabis extract cannabidiol (CBD) could be removed from shelves next year if they fail to provide consumers with more safety information, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has warned.
CBD is a non-psychoactive chemical compound found in the marijuana plant which does not disrupt the central nervous system because it does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the other key compound in cannabis which causes users to get high.
This means that products containing CBD do not lead to changes in mood and perception like marijuana in its complete form is known to do.
In the last couple of years the British high-street has seen a boom in the availability of CBD products; you can now buy everything from CBD skincare to CBD gummy sweets, CBD toothpaste, CBD shampoo and CBD hummus.
But on Thursday, the FSA warned that pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and people taking medication should not consume foods containing the ingredient.
The FSA cautioned anyone who might eat such foods not to have more than 70mg a day.
In a warning to CBD businesses, the regulator added that goods containing CBD could be taken off the shelves if they fail to provide consumers with more information about the safety and contents of their products by the end of March 2021.
Emily Miles, chief executive of the FSA, said the warning has been issued because even though CBD products are “widely available on the high street” they are not properly authorised.
“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,” Miles said.
“Also today, we are advising that CBD could be risky for vulnerable groups, and suggesting an upper limit of 70mg a day for everyone else taking the product.
”The actions that we’re taking today are a pragmatic and proportionate step in balancing the protection of public health with consumer choice. It’s now up to industry to supply this information so that the public can be reassured that CBD is safe and what it says it is.“
As a result of the FSA’s statement, companies are being asked to apply for ”novel food authorisation“ which, the agency said, will reassure the public about the safety of CBD products.
While the FSA has issued guidance, which applies only to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is local authorities which have the power to enforce the novel foods legislation.
We have today set a deadline for #CBD businesses to provide more information about #cannabidiol products and their contents. After 31 March 2021, only products which have submitted a valid application will be allowed to remain on the market. More info: https://t.co/TYvQ0aOByV pic.twitter.com/I5tJ7uiGkC
— Food Standards Agency (@foodgov) February 13, 2020
Professor Alan Boobis, chairman of the Committee on Toxicity, which advises the FSA and department of health, said while the risk from CBD is not certain, the agency’s approach is a ”sensible and pragmatic“ one.
”My committee has reviewed the evidence on CBD food products and found evidence there are potential adverse health effects from the consumption of these products,” Boobis said.
“We are particularly concerned about pregnant or breast-feeding women and people on medication.
”We don’t know enough to be sure about such a risk but I am pleased with the sensible and pragmatic approach the FSA is taking. The committee will continue to keep these products under review in the months ahead.“
The FSA has confirmed that its announcement does not affect people who take medically prescribed CBD or cannabis.
(A version of this story first appeared on The Independent.)