The CBD industry has been plunged into a state of confusion by the Food Standards Agency’s handling of the novel foods process.
Companies scrambled to get dossiers of safety and quality data ready for a March 31 deadline set by the regulator ahead of the imposition of new rules on the sector.
On April 19, the FSA published its first public register of products which have been ‘validated’, meaning they can continue to be sold in the UK pending a further decision on full authorisation.
But directors and industry watchers were shocked to discover just 23 products from three different companies were included on the first public register.
The FSA has confirmed to Cannabis Wealth the register will be updated weekly and they don’t expect it to be completed until June, leaving companies facing the prospect of being stuck in regulatory limbo for weeks or months.
There is huge legal uncertainty over how the new guidelines will be enforced by trading standards bodies up and down the country in the mean time.
Theoretically, any product not presently on the list could be pulled from shelves by officials – despite the fact they could be added as soon as next week.
Crucially, the FSA have not published a list of products pending a decision, which could create the impression for consumers and retailers that a company has not engaged with the regulatory process.
Robert Jappie, industry expert and partner at law firm Ince, said the handling of the process has caused huge confusion and could lead to legal disputes between CBD firms and the public bodies expected to enforce the incomplete regulations.
He told Cannabis Wealth: “My clients are very frustrated, businesspeople in this sector have been working very hard to get their submission ready and to do as the FSA have asked.
“Companies are now nervously waiting to find out when they’ll be added to the list and companies which get on early will have an unfair commercial advantage.
“I think it’s clear that the FSA underestimated just how many applications they’d receive, I’m very disappointed at their conduct.
“I just hope Trading Standards hold off until the list is completed in June, if they started to get involved now that would be a big mistake.”
Nathan Wogman, managing director of CBD manufacturer and distributor Taylor Mammon, said the FSA ‘are extremely well intentioned’ but the regulators were not prepared for the enormity of the task.
He posted on LinkedIn: “…they clearly lack the recourses to deal with sheer volume of applications received, I genuinely think the FSA totally underestimated this size and scale of the market and have created a bit of a beast.
“The uncertainty this brings to every touch point of our industry is not a good thing and I fear the market will be in ‘uncertain’ holding pattern for a good couple of months…think I know what it feels like to be stuck the oil tanker in the Suez Canal waiting for it to correct itself.”
The FSA also revealed yesterday there would be a second status for companies dubbed ‘on hold; which fall sort of attaining validation but is granted where ‘robust’ commitments to the regulator they will provide all the required information.
At time of writing, no products have been designated as ‘on hold’ by the FSA.
As previously reporter, there is no appeal mechanism for companies denied validation built into the process.
Cannabis Wealth has approached the FSA for clarification on the issues raised in this article.