Europe and UK maintain CBD food safety concerns as approvals stagnate

Europe’s food safety regulator has suspended so-called novel food applications for CBD-related products after identifying potential ‘dangers’ in animal testing.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has said that its scientists “cannot currently establish the safety of cannabidiol (CBD) as a novel food due to data gaps and uncertainties regarding potential related hazards. to the consumption of CBD”.

That’s a view shared by the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), which resumed authorizing novel food applications on January 1, 2021 in the wake of the country’s exit from the European Union. With the same safety concerns at heart, no CBD-related food products are currently on sale in the UK.

Nutrition, Novel Foods and Food Allergens (NDA), an EFSA scientific panel chaired by Professor Dominique Turck, received 19 requests for CBD-related products, according to a statement.

In the UK, post-Brexit, the FSA has set 31 March 2021 as the deadline for companies to submit applications for novel foods, for those already on the market. But they have not yet been authorized for sale. A database of applications was created in March 2022, and the FSA said it “encourages local authorities and retailers to use this list as a tool to prioritize enforcement as we continue to process applications” .

Novel foods are described by the EU, and the UK as a whole, as products that were not widely consumed before 1997 and therefore have a limited safety history.

CBD is the non-high compound, unlike its cousin THC – the psychoactive tetra-hydro cannabinol found in marijuana. All of these food products containing THC have been banned under European regulations.

In 2020, when the EC requested consultations on whether to label CBD food products as narcotics-related, the Commission said its main concerns were with “the CBD extracted from the flowering and fruiting tops of the plant of hemp (Cannabis sativa)”.

Although CBD-related food products have been linked to health benefits such as pain relief, concerns remain.

The NDA’s Turck said, “We have identified several hazards associated with CBD intake and determined that numerous data gaps on these health effects need to be addressed before these assessments can move forward. It is important to emphasize at this point that we have not concluded that CBD is unsafe as a food.

A new round of discussions has been opened for CBD applicants seeking approval, as well as “other groups or individuals with an interest in this issue and novel foods more generally.” EFSA will host an online session on June 28.

EFSA noted “there is insufficient data on the effect of CBD on the liver, gastrointestinal tract, endocrine system, nervous system and on people’s psychological well-being” .

He added: “Studies in animals show significant adverse effects, particularly with regard to reproduction. It is important to determine whether these effects are also seen in humans.

The European Food Safety Assessment Agency is looking to applicants for CBD-related foods to convince EFSA that the products are safe for consumption.

Ana Afonso, Head of Nutrition and Food Innovation at EFSA, said: “It is not unusual to stop the clock on an assessment of a new food when information is lacking. Applicants are responsible for filling data gaps. We engage with them to explain how additional information can be provided to help address uncertainties.

In response to EFSA’s latest position, the FSA provided a statement to Just Food.

Peter Quigley, Deputy Director of Regulatory Services at the Agency, said: “EFSA came to the same conclusions as the Toxicity Committee two years ago: there are still gaps in the evidence for CBD in as food and relevant data is needed to prove a safety case for CBD foods.

He added, “It also reflects the approach we’ve taken of requiring applicants to submit toxicology data to prove the safety of CBD products instead of relying on literature reviews of existing evidence.”

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