The Safety Certification Initiative is created with public safety in mind comprising of three levels that represent the actions needed to gain full Novel Foods approval from the appropriate regulatory bodies.
“It’s been clear that retailers and consumers don’t have complete faith in CBD products that are currently for sale in the UK,” says Dr Andy Yates, pharmacy lead at the ACI
“The ACI’s Certification is a simple way for retailers and consumers to be sure that the CBD products they are stocking or buying are complying with or working towards all of the relevant regulations.”
The ACI Certification begins with Tier 1 – Certified. Here, an ACI member has proven compliant with the ACI’s 7 pillar charter and passed the industry group’s audit that verifies the quality of its management structure and manufacturing standards.
The ACI states that companies could begin displaying this mark on their products by the end of the summer 2020.
To gain Tier 2 – Validated, a company must have their Novel Foods application approved by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and/or the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
“The ACI will support its members throughout this process to ensure they submit appropriate scientific dossiers to receive validation,” the group adds.
“This is a legal requirement to keep products on the market in the UK after 31st March 2021. The first companies should gain this level by the end of 2020.”
‘In complete alignment’
Finally, Tier 3 – Authorised is granted when a company has had their Novel Foods application authorised by the FSA and/or EFSA with the ACI stating it would support its members throughout this process that is subject to annual review.
“The ACI and its members are in complete alignment with the FSA in terms of ensuring the safety of CBD in products,” says Paul Duffy, a specialist in toxicology.
“Discussions are planned to agree the most efficient way of achieving this objective including utilising all the high-quality scientific information that is currently available.”
News of the ACI’s initiative comes after news reports left the UK CBD industry reeling from the fallout that threatens to tarnish the image of the industry’s burgeoning reputation.
In 2019, The Times reported on laboratory test results that suggested over half of CBD oils sold at high-street chemists, health shops and online did not contain the level of CBD promised on the label.
NutraIngredients also reported on similar news in February, in which the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), found 37% of CBD-related products tested had a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content that could exceed safety limits set by EFSA.
In addition, over 40% of samples varied significantly (over 50%) from declared CBD content, which the FSAI says, places consumers at risk of “being grossly misled to being put at risk by the ingestion of relatively high levels of THC”.
The study received much criticism from retailers in the CBD space with some calling the results and overall regulatory situation ‘untenable’ and ‘grossly unjust to punish the end user and the retailer for a lack of clear framework and governance in the emerging cannabis industry in Ireland.’
The FSA recently announced new regulatory and precautionary advice that informed the CBD industry that it had until 31 March 2021 to submit valid novel food authorisation applications.
After 31 March next year, only products, which have submitted a valid application will be allowed to remain on the market.
“CBD products are widely available on the high street but are not properly authorised,” said Emily Miles, chief executive of the Food Standards Agency.
“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.”
“The UK has the necessary skill sets and talent in chemistry, agriculture, international business, and the regulatory requirements of the cannabinoid industry,” adds Dr Parveen Bhatarah, regulatory lead at the ACI.
“Especially when it comes to CBD, we have the knowledge needed, from growing, to extraction and creating finished formulations. Consumer safety is the key for the CBD sector. The UK is ready to lead the global CBD industry.”