Posted: 29/10/2019

CBD foods’ legal limbo leaves retailers currently running a risk

Independent retailers should remain cautious about stocking the growing number of food and drink items containing the cannabis extract cannabidiol (CBD) – because not a single product has been authorised for sale by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The FSA confirmed to FFD that food which contains the chemical compound – which has been touted as a helpful treatment for pain, anxiety and even cancer – is required by law to have pre-market safety tests, because it is classed as a “novel food”.

An FSA spokesperson said: “Currently no CBD extracts have the legally required authorisation. There are a number of CBD products on the market that are non-compliant as they do not have the correct authorisation.”

The agency has stated that it is still working on a compliance process.

Every retailer contacted by FFD on this topic said they were unclear on CBD’s status, even if they were currently stocking items with it in.

In the last year, a host of products made with CBD extract, including drinks, tea, chocolate and beer, has come to market. CBD should not be confused with THC, the main psychoactive chemical found in cannabis.

“I would not go as far as saying it’s illegal to stock food items that contain CBD, but there are considerations that need to be borne in mind” said Shannett Thompson, senior associate at law firm Kingsley Napley. “Technically speaking, Trading Standards could walk into a shop on the high street and they could take [CBD products] off the shelves if the retailer cannot prove the analysis of the product and whether it has been safety assessed for consumption by humans.”

“We understand that they are not doing this because they want to work in a proportionate way, and this is an area which is in flux.”

Although she would advise food retailers against currently stocking products containing CBD – without making appropriate checks, taking advice or liaising with the relevant authorities – Thompson also confirmed that the onus is on retailers to make sure, at very least, that Trading Standards and the FSA know they are carrying these products. 

If retailers were to have items confiscated, she said they would be the party that suffered financial losses and damage to their reputation, rather than the supplier directly.

An FSA spokesperson said: “To obtain an authorisation for a novel food, businesses need to demonstrate that the product is safe. They need to submit specific information about what the food is, how it’s made and how they intend to use it, as well as providing detailed information to demonstrate it is safe for people to eat.”

The FSA said businesses should be making applications for CBD products under Novel Food Regulations. More guidance is available at

Do you sell or produce CBD foods?

Given the rapidly developing nature of this new category – and in the interest of journalistic balance – Fine Food Digest wants to hear from more retailers and producers of CBD foods for further coverage.

The editorial team believes that there is much more to discuss and discover about these products, so if you have an opinion please get in touch via

This story appeared in the October-November issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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