CBD trade group mounts legal action to challenge possible FSA reclassification

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

A trade association for the UK’s cannabis industry announces its intentions to sue the country’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) over moves to classify cannabidiol (CBD)-containing products as a 'novel food.'

In a letter seen by NutraIngredients, the industry group CannaPro wrote to the FSA asserting its members’ rights for compensation for associated losses due to the “misclassification”​ of their products as novel foods.

“We consider our client has grounds to challenge the decision,”​ wrote CannaPro’s legal representatives.

“We write to draw to your attention the detrimental effects of your actions to date, and we invite you to declassify CBD products as novel foods, and revert to their previous classification as a food supplement.”

The action follows recent reports of The Cannabis Trades Association UK’s decision to move ahead with legal proceedings that challenge the European Commission's (EC) decision to classify CBD as a novel food.

While the EC or the FSA have made no firm decision, the signs point to CBD’s impending change of status as its recent addition​ to the EU’s Novel Food Catalogue suggests.

The main cause of disagreement centres on the impact on manufacturers, suppliers, retailers and others that represent the CBD industry.

If confirmed, CBD-containing products would encounter greater difficulty in entering the EU market, requiring a pre-market approval as novel foods as set out in Regulation 2015/2283.

Contingency planning impeded

CannaPro’s letter also highlights the delay in making the final decision, coupled with inadequate communication to other stakeholders that is contributing to a lack of clarification.

“Our client has made it clear to the FSA, during various email exchanges that many businesses within the industry are still unclear as to how to proceed, and as a result are incurring significant costs in contingency planning​.

“Our client did not receive any information or notification prior to the amendment to the EU Novel Foods Catalogue being published.

“However, the FSA clearly knew about the change, given that the entity petitioned for the update. Please confirm what information was provided to manufacturers and suppliers of CBD Products prior to classification, and the amendment being published.”

The FSA has previously stated that it was considering how to move forward. It planned to meet with relevant industry representative bodies, local authorities and other stakeholders in order to determine how to achieve compliance in the marketplace.

CBD as Novel Food is ‘nonsense’

Peter Reynolds, president of CannaPro, said that the FSA had made a series of errors in the way in its handling of this matter.  

“The whole process has been misguided and unlawful, not to say that the whole idea CBD products can be regarded as novel is nonsense,” he commented.

“It has undertaken no proper consultation and although there have been vague discussions around the issue for a couple of years, the FSA has changed its position time and time again. 

“What is really going on here is that big business and powerful vested interests have been caught on the hop while enterprising small businesses have established a market which is now worth an awful lot of money.

“Improper pressure has been brought on the regulator to find a way of clamping down.  It would suit these vested interests to see the market so strictly regulated that small businesses are unable to compete.  CannaPro is not going to stand by and let that happen.”

In January this year, the Director General (DG) of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended among other things, that cannabis and associated substances be rescheduled in the international drug control framework.

Whilst the changes helped facilitate the trade of these substances for medicinal and scientific purposes, the DG recommended that products containing predominantly CBD and not more than 0.2% Delta-9-THC be exempt from international control, adding that its exclusion would be due to “no relevant risk to public health.”

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