The Food Standards Agency announcement that all cannabidiol (CBD) products require approval by March 2021 is the classic attempt to close the CBD stable door long after these products have bolted onto the market. If they fail to register their products by this date the producers risk having their CBD products pulled of the shelves. This seems a little late in the day given their popularity creating a multi-million-pound market in recent years.
It is remarkable to think that none of these CBD products has been approved and it could take months until consumers know if their preferred product will be formally green lit for sale. Added to this, pregnant women and those taking medication have been advised not to use any of these CBD products. This is bound to create anxiety for many about the risks they are exposing themselves to having already consumed them.
This advice is based on a report by the government’s Committee on Toxicity which concluded that they still don’t know enough about the potential risks. This isn’t surprising as the research is still trying to catch up with the popularity of these commodities. The results of research into the potential benefits and risks of CBD could take some time to be published. This is an area of research up to now that has not received much attention or research funding.
So, in the absence of evidence some manufacturers are making erroneous or exaggerated claims about the benefits of using CBD. With everything from cancer to pain claimed to be helped by it. This clearly preys on many at a time in their life when they are most vulnerable and may be willing to try anything as a result.
Although the FSA’s advice is deemed “sensible and pragmatic”, according to the chairman of the committee advising the organisation, it will leave many anxious about the effects CBD may already have had on them or will have if they continue using them.
The labelling on these products is not standardised so it can be difficult to know the quantity of CBD they contain. Some have been found to contain no CBD and worryingly some have tested positive for the psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). If the Food Standards Agency successfully persuades all producers to clearly label their products and detail the CBD content that will be a significant step forward.
With all these uncertainties and lack of information on CBD products, what’s needed is a single source of credible information. The FSA could be well placed to provide this to consumers but doesn’t appear to have any plans to do this, leaving consumers to do their own checks on research on products they are using or thinking of trying. Again, this leaves them vulnerable as this information vacuum will be filled by producers and suppliers who may not have the consumers’ best interests at heart.
These are profitable products, so the industry is well placed to fund a central portal of information which is independently managed by experts. Anything else would be open to allegations of a conflict of interest.
It’s good that the FSA has finally stepped in to regulate and advise consumers about CBD products, but they are likely to have raised consumers’ anxiety rather than dampened it. They have missed an opportunity to provide updated information about individual CBD products. It’s not too late to do this but unless the funding is made available to do this consumers will be left on their own.