The health and wellness retail giant removed the products from shelves in the UK on October 13th, the day after the new consumer advice from the Food Standards Authority which caused initial shock and panic for the industry.
The retailer confirmed to NutraIngredients today (October 23rd) that it has reinstated the products, adding that it is bringing new guidance into stores and product descriptions online, with links to the FSA’s consumer advice, alongside staff training, to make sure that customers can make informed decisions should they choose a product that contains a dose higher than 10mg a day.
A Holland & Barrett Spokesperson said: “as a responsible retailer we always act with our customers’ best interests at heart, which is why we temporarily removed some products from sale while our science, legal and independent advisors assessed the new guidance from the FSA. We wanted to make sure we could help customers make an informed choice on what dosage and for how long they take CBD for.
"In line with the FSA's direction, we have now developed advisory guidance, training for colleagues, online advice and information at shelf edge, meaning that customers can access the information they need when choosing which strength is right for them. We are committed to working with the FSA and the wider industry for the benefit of our customers as the CBD market continues to develop. We would like to thank our suppliers for their support while we completed this review.”
The FSA's guidance is based on updated advice from its independent scientific committee - the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods Processes (ACNFP) and the Committee on Toxicity (cot) after an assessment of data received via novel foods dossiers.
The reduced level is due to concerns around daily long-term use of CBD products potentially leading to liver damage or thyroid issues.
Panic turned to positivity
The retailer's U-turn is an indicator that the initial panic caused by the new guidance has started to subside. In fact, CBD drinks brand TRIP reported its best week of sales last week despite most of its cans containing more than 10mg CBD.
A spokesperson for the brand said the CBD drinks are distributed in 25,000 stores and no retailers, other than H&B, chose to remove CBD products from shelves.
Thanks to there many revenue channels, they saw no slow down in their week-on-week increase in sales.
A spokesperson for the brand said: “Following Mental Health Awareness Day (10th October) and after the FSA announcement TRIP had its best sales week ever with Britons continuing to choose TRIP CBD products to support their everyday wellbeing - having seen the benefits first hand over the past few years.
“Not all CBD is created equal. The FSA updated recommended daily guideline of 10mg CBD dosage is based on a study of 3 lower grade ingredient samples, which does not include TRIP’s CBD.”
Dr Julie Moltke, MD Medical CBD Practitioner, Researcher and Published Author, added: “It is most surprising that when the majority of the high-quality CBD datasets that have been made public were assessed, the three datasets analysed by the FSA appeared to have a significantly lower daily guideline. It can be useful to compare to the daily guideline in other countries that have legalised CBD for many years - In Canada the daily upper guideline is for 200 mg/day and in the Netherlands it is 160 mg/day. It is also worth noting that in the UK the NHS upper prescription guideline for Epidiolex, a synthetic CBD given to children and adults with epilepsy, is 1750mg/day for a 70kg person”
Dr Mark Tallon, managing director of food law consultancy Legal Foods Ltd, recently spoke to NutraIngredients stating that this new opinion shouldn't cause mass panic amongst the industry.
He said the new guidance is not going to affect some companies and for others is "potentially even a beneficial opinion" as he explained that the 10mg rule is at least a 'foot in the door' for the industry.
"Let's take a breadth, let's have some discussions with the FSA, and say 'why have you done x, y and z'... and can we still change that?"
Industry players are indeed starting to question the FSA's decision to base new consumer guidance on just a handful of datasets.
Steve Moore, founder of the CBD consortium the ACI (the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry), told NutraIngredients: "There was a lot of confusion and a lot of panic initially but it's calmed down now and the main questions now are around why the FSA chose to base their new opinion on the partial assessment of their data. We need urgent clarity on the studies that were considered."
The ACI is currently seeking further clarity from the FSA and relevant committees, with a selection of the key questions including: We understand that the position paper was drafted in March 2023, why is it being made public only now, some six months later?; How many datasets submitted by industry as part of novel food applications were considered by the ACNFP and the COT before determining that only three were suitable for providing quantitative data used as the basis for the new provisional ADI?; and what were the criteria applied by the ACNFP and the COT in determining that only the three datasets were suitable?