A range of products that contain the cannabis extract cannabidiol (CBD) will be taken off the shelves next year if they do not gain regulatory approval. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said products had to be registered by March 2021 or they would be pulled, and follows warnings from pharmacists who have demanded better regulation of products claiming to contain CBD.

The products that include oils, water, chocolate, tea and coffee are widely available for sale in High Street shops across the country, including chemists. Earlier this month, Holland & Barrett were found to stock a brand of CBD oil that contained more than four times the legal limit of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of the cannabis drug. And yet, not one CBD product has been approved in the UK, raising safety concerns.

The FSA has also issued new advice on CBD use, saying it should not be used alongside other medication. This will come as shock to many who have turned to these new oils, drops, foods and supplements to help them with medical problems. As well as being beneficial for treating a number of ailments, many believe CBD oil can promote sleep, boost appetite and reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

The FSA also told healthy adults to think carefully before taking CBD, and then not to take more than 70mg a day. That equates to about 28 drops of 5% strength CBD oil. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised not to use CBD products at all.

Harmful ingredients

As well as illegal levels of THC, trials have found CBD products on sale that contain unlisted and potentially hazardous ingredients. Many may contain little or none of the extract itself, contrary to their marketing claims and despite their high prices.

The FSA said producers had been slow to submit their products for approval, forcing it to impose the deadline.

Rebecca Sudworth, Director of Policy at the FSA, said: “The FSA has persistently made clear to the CBD industry that they need to apply for authorisation. If we don’t see compliance soon, we will take further action. If any evidence is found to suggest CBD is harmful, it will be removed from shelves immediately.”

The FSA based its recommendations on advice from the government’s Committee on Toxicity (COT), which has found evidence of potential adverse health effects from CBD. However, it accepts that it still does not know enough to be sure about the risks.

Steve Moore, from the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI), said CBD producers welcomed the new guidance. “We believe that this will elicit the safety studies that are vital to build consumer confidence and help develop a socially responsible and sustainable industry.”

An longer article on CBD and cannabis oil can be found on our Learning Centre.

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