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Scottish hemp industry calls for cooperation over novel food regulations



CBD companies must apply for novel food status by the end of March

Hemp and CBD companies have called on the authorities to ‘cooperate’ in coming to a solution over new novel food regulations.

Several Scottish companies, which say their place in the industry has been threatened by the introduction of novel food regulations this year, have appealed to Food Standards Scotland (FSS) to work with them to come to a solution.

CBD brands in England and Wales have until 31 March, 2021 to apply for Novel Food status from the Food Standards Authority (FSA), in line with European regulations.

At the end of last year, the FSA confirmed that all applications must include toxicology safety data and only products with this validation will be allowed on the market after this date.

However, FSS has not yet announced the deadline for those companies based over the border.

The Scottish Hemp Association, which represents more than 20 traders in the CBD and hemp sector – including manufacturers, producers and retailers – is hoping to reach an agreement which will allow whole-plant extracts to remain on the market.

While it agrees that CBD isolate should be considered a novel food, along with synthetically produced CBD, it claims that none of its members use isolates in their products.

The Association proposes that any products of under 95 percent purity – and therefore no longer pure single-molecule CBD – should be allowed to continue being used in food products.

“The information that has brought CBD to the attention of food regulators is based on clinical trials from GW pharmaceuticals using 99 percent purified isolated CBD,” said Kyle Esplin founder of Holistic Highland Hemp and chair of the Scottish Hemp Association.

“Concerns have never been reported about whole plant extracts.”

Esplin expects that as has happened elsewhere in Europe, CBD products which do not gain novel food status will be soon back on the shelves under the guise of cosmetics.

“If novel food regulation is enforced against hemp extracts, consumers who want the whole plant will be in the position of either consuming products labelled as cosmetics, or sourcing from the black market,” he argues.

The trade association was founded to bring together those in the Scottish hemp industry, after several companies felt “threatened” by the introduction of novel food regulations.

The cost of generating toxicology data, which must include a 90-day rodent trial, is estimated to be between £300,000 and £1million.

“We’re made up of small businesses, who felt threatened by the introduction of novel food regulation, which we feel is being unfairly pushed,” said Esplin.

“It’s not even just an issue of cost, it seems like it’s not possible to get some of these products through the novel foods process.”

He added: “If the concern is about people consuming these products, don’t remove them from the food standards system where we have regulation in place.

“We’re appealing to FSS not to exclude our products over the novel foods issue. There’s space for everybody.”

In a statement outlining its position to FSS the Scottish Hemp Association writes: “We want to cooperate and find a solution that works for Scotland.

“Failure to reach any agreement will result in a marketplace of known CBD brands – products that have been consumed for several years – then being sold as cosmetics, consumed by customers, and no food standards regulation can be applied which is extremely detrimental to consumer safety.”

None of the companies are considering the novel food application for their hemp based products and say they would rather drop out of the CBD food system all together if the regulation is enforced.

“Novel foods regulation opens the door to synthetically produced CBD being sold, something we as an industry have sought to keep out of the supply chain,” it argues.

“We are aware some companies in England are proceeding and the majority, if not all of them, are going to be made from CBD isolate, or CBD isolate plus CBG isolate. This does not satisfy the requirements of our whole plant consumers, they do not want isolated CBD they want hemp extracts.

“Synthetically produced CBD products could be sold with Hemp leaf artwork on the packet and no regulatory requirement to inform the consumer that it is synthetically produced.”

According to the Association some consumers have been “shocked” that this could be an outcome.

But some regulation of the market is needed and it has asked the FSS to work with it to introduce its proposed by an agreed transition date.

This includes ensuring that no CBD isolate or CBD extracts above 95 percent purity are used in food products and all CBD products contain less than 1mg THC per product.

“Hemp seed oil is not permitted in every country around the world, but Scotland has sold it for years with no enforcement over trace THC content, no public health issues or complaints, an established soft touch non enforcement policy it seems,” added Esplin.

“We are asking that FSS come to an agreement with Scottish Hemp Association that this soft touch policy of non-enforcement be extended to the CBD industry.”

While confirming that no deadline has been announced for novel food applications in Scotland, FSS urged businesses to lodge an application “without undue delay”.

In a statement to Cannabis Health, a spokesperson said: “At this time, there is no deadline for novel food application submissions in Scotland. However, it is important to note that all businesses intending to sell food items containing CBD should not place their products on the market until they have applied for, and received, authorisation from Food Standards Scotland and Food Standards Agency as part of the GB Application Service. Applications made to the EU prior to 1 January 2021 will also need to be submitted using the GB Application Service, which can be accessed here.

“We urge businesses with products already on the market to lodge an application for authorisation of a novel food without undue delay, and we would encourage Local Authorities to work with businesses in their area to facilitate this process.”


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