The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has stressed that no CBD products have yet been authorised for sale in the country and that its “preference” is for retailers to withdraw all brands from their shelves.

Despite publishing a list of products that are “one step closer towards authorisation”, the FSA made it clear that none are yet compliant with novel food regulations.

However, while its “preference would be for retailers not to sell any unauthorised products”, the FSA said it would “tolerate” products on the list remaining on sale.

Cann Group, Bod Australia and Elixinol all have CBD products on the list.

Under UK regulations, local authorities enforce novel food legislation. The FSA has advised these authorities to take a “proportionate approach” and encourage businesses whose products are not on the list to “voluntarily withdraw their products”.

But as no products have yet been authorised, local authorities can, theoretically, take action against any of them, even those on the FSA database.

In practice, however, that is a remote prospect unless products are not compliant in other ways, such as making false or misleading health or nutrition claims or if they are identified as being unsafe.

FSA chief executive Emily Miles said the list was created to help local authorities and retailers prioritise products to be removed from sale.

“If a product is not on the list, it should be removed from sale because it is not attached to a credible application to us for market authorisation,” she said. “But being on the list means that the application is credible and the FSA has, or is shortly expecting to receive, significant scientific evidence from the applicant with which to judge safety.”

But Miles went on to emphasise that the FSA is “not endorsing” products on the list as they have not been fully assessed for safety.

“I want to emphasise that… inclusion on the list is no guarantee that they will be authorised as they have not been fully assessed for safety.

“But we have taken the step of publishing the list so that local authorities, retailers and consumers can make informed judgements about what they stock and buy as we gradually bring this growing market into compliance with the law.”

In total, more than 900 novel food applications for CBD were received by the FSA, 680 of which were rejected and a further 42 withdrawn.

A little over 3,500 products from 70 applications are on the list.

Of the Australian products which feature, 15 from Bod Australia – which are marketed in the UK by Health and Happiness – have been ‘validated’, which means the application contains all the information required by law to be risk assessed.

Health food brand Holland & Barrett is among the retailers expected to restock its shelves of CBD product

Cann Group’s four Satipharm CBD products and Elixinol’s 22-strong range of oils and capsules are ‘awaiting evidence’, which means they are ‘progressing well’ and ‘contain evidence of plans to complete the studies required for a risk assessment’.

Cann Group chief commercial officer Shane Duncan told Cannabiz it was assured by the FSA that its products could remain on sale.

Since publication of the list, retailers have been keen to restock Satipharm, he said.

“A number of retailers are looking at Satipharm to be their anchor CBD product,” Duncan said. “It’s taken a year longer than the FSA first anticipated to get to this point and the industry has been spinning its wheels for that time.

“We’re certainly expecting to see an increase in revenue between now and the end of the financial year, before ramping up at the back end of the year as more stores are able to put it on their shelves.”  

While describing the CBD overhaul in the UK as “wide-reaching positive change”, Elixinol said the “inability [of the FSA] to process applications during the course of 2021 left the market uncertain as to which products were compliant”.

“This effectively put a pause on any new product launches and made retailers reluctant to invest in the CBD category,” Elixinol said in its annual report in February.

The uncertainty led the company to close its European operations and enter a licensing agreement with British Cannabis.   

Steve has reported for a number of consumer and B2B titles over a journalism career spanning more than three decades. He is a regulator contributor to health journal, The Medical Republic, writing on...