6 August 2020

Positive change in direction

The UK Hemp industry has been given an opportunity Following the announcement by the EFSA that they have suspended the submissions portal for Novel Food Applications pending its reclassification as a narcotic. The EFSA are waiting for the outcome of the World Health Organisation recommended rescheduling of cannabis vote in December. Though this may introduce hurdles for some, it has the potential to enable the UK market to firmly establish itself as a leader in this exciting and emerging industry.

In the past three years this meeting has been postponed and rescheduled three times and this is where the uncertainty lies - will they delay again?

Such doubt does not exist closer to home. The UK Home Office do not consider CBD to be a Narcotic and the FSA are resolute that CBD is a Novel Food. The CTA remains steadfast in our belief that extracts should not be a novel food, though at present, we do not believe that there is any significant chance of a successful article 4 submission.  We understand that this maybe massively disappointing to some of our members, however, it is important that we are realistic and provide our members with the information that we believe will best serve their businesses within this evolving industry. The reasons why we believe that an article 4 submission is no longer the best route is as follows:

The European commission as a result of the recent change to their classification of CBD to a narcotic are no longer accepting relevant article 4 applications. The FSA cannot yet accept article 4 applications as we are still within the BREXIT transition period. Therefore, there is currently no route for us to submit an article 4 application.

Prior to the recent EC development regarding CBD, other European trade associations had also changed their approach to the novel food issue as they also felt that the article 4 route no longer had any significant chance of success.

The FSA who will be post January managing the article 4 process have made it clear that without substantial additional evidence of prior use, it is highly unlikely that they will change their current position. There was already a comprehensive document containing evidence of prior use unsuccessfully presented to the European Commission and as far as we are aware, there Is no new evidence.

We have a relatively small window of time to and we need to make a decision that we feel best serves our members. We do not believe it is in our members best interest to advise against a route that could lead to legal enforcement action being taken against them.

It is also the case that any company that sells a full spectrum product which contains trace amounts of THC even in the scenario of a successful article 4 outcome, would not be covered as their products would not be considered a food due to the home office’s 1mg rule on controlled substances.

We have broken our membership into five main sectors:

  1. Manufacturers who produce raw ingredients such as isolate, distillate and raw extracts
  2. Primary producers who buy ingredients to blend or formulate products
  3. Secondary producers who buy finished product to decant or bottle
  4. White Label or Own Brand (buy sealed finished product and rebrand)
  5. Resellers (including wholesalers) of pre-branded products or ingredients.

Many of our members do not need to apply for a novel food authorisation as they are secondary producers, white-labellers and resellers.

It is expected that category 1 would be responsible for submitting applications although category 2 may wish to collaborate with their supplier to ensure any custom formulations would be covered under an application.

Categories 3, 4 and 5 should speak with their suppliers and ensure their products will be covered under the terms of an application.

In all cases with the exception of category 1, it is vital that you take the immediate step of speaking with your supplier to determine their intentions are and what if any steps you need to take. The CTA will be issuing additional advice in the near future regarding the questions that you should be asking your supplier. We will also be meeting soon with the FSA when we hope to gain further clarity on this pressing issue.

As the hemp sector in the UK moves from unregulated to a regulated market, the CTA asks manufacturers of raw ingredients used in products (CBD isolate, distillate and full spectrum) to consider applying for a Novel Food license via the UK FSA. This will ensure the continuation of compliant CBD product sales beyond the March 31st deadline.

The FSA route to compliance brings much needed regulation, increased confidence and credibility to a flourishing UK market which looks set to hold the biggest sector of the European market due to the cloudy outlook set by the EFSA and WHO.

End – 815 words

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