An EU reclassification of cannabinoids as novel foodstuffs is being challenged by English lawyers.
London law firm Mackrell Turner Garrett, together with a leading food and trading standards barrister, has been instructed by the Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTA) to challenge a change in the classification of food products containing cannabidiol (also known as CBD) recently introduced by European regulators.
And those involved in Britain’s booming medicinal cannabis industry fear that CBD products could be removed from shop shelves if the new categorisation is rigorously enforced.
Robert Jappie, Head of Cannabis Law at Mackrell Turner Garrett and Queen’s Counsel Jonathan Kirk of Gough Square Chambers were in Brussels this week making representations to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) about the recent decision to reclassify hemp extracts as ‘novel’.
Under the Novel Food Regulations ((EU) 2015/2283) any product deemed as ‘novel’ must gain authorisation from EFSA before it can be sold as a foodstuff within the EU.
A foodstuff can be considered ‘novel’ if it was not consumed by humans to any significant degree prior to May 1997.
The regulations apply to food supplements, ingredients, and substances intended to be incorporated into food. In the case of CBD, this includes extracts, oils and other derived products that are intended for ingestion by humans.
This reclassification will make it more difficult for products with cannabinoids to go for sale in the EU market without pre-authorisation.
The EU categorisation for cannabinoids is as follows: “Extracts of Cannabis sativa L. and derived products containing cannabinoids are considered novel foods as a history of consumption has not been demonstrated. This applies to both the extracts themselves and any products to which they are added as an ingredient (such as hemp seed oil).”
Catalogue of novel foods
The catalogue of novel foods issued by EFSA is for advice only but in practice is relied upon legislators concerned with public safety.
In light of this change to the novel food catalogue, the British Food Standards Agency could seek to have CBD products removed from shelves if a decision to enforce the new classification is taken.
CTA chair Mike Harlington said “Only food products that are enriched with isolated CBD should be considered novel. Hemp extracts are not novel and this is the position we have presented for almost two years now. Our position remains unchanged. Our members’ products remain legal, and will not be removed from sale.”
The CTA was founded in 2016 and now has more than 700 members in the UK producing a wide range of legal CBD products.
Robert Jappie said that the growth of the UK’s CBD industry has been spectacular in the last three years it contributes in excess of £100 million per annum to the British economy.
The CTA’s decision to challenge this decision by instructing leading cannabis law lawyer Robert Jappie and Jonathan Kirk, who specialises EU food regulation, is an indication of industry concern.