A history of insufficient testing and lax regulation has left the UK’s CBD industry in reputational disarray. With consumer trust undoubtedly a key ingredient in maintaining the drive of CBD into the mainstream health market, the ACI, EIHA and CBD oil manufacturers in the UK have worked hard over the past couple of years to clean up their act.
Trust in the industry
Having gradually shrugged off the perception that cannabidiol and cannabis are one and the same and the implications of this belief, the CBD industry has grown from a horticultural novelty into a £300 million market in just a few years. With such extraordinary growth in a short time period, it is hardly any wonder that demand for CBD outstripped its regulation.
A 2019 study conducted by the Centre for Medical Cannabis (CMC) truly highlighted the consequences of poor regulation in the UK market. This study tested 30 CBD oils from companies operating in the UK and found 11 contained less than half their advertised CBD content, whilst one contained none at all. Others were found to contain high levels of THC which if above 1mg, is illegal in the UK. Hence, industry leaders knew that significant changes were required to gain consumer trust in UK-produced CBD products.
As of 2019, CBD has been classified by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as a ‘novel food’. This use of ‘novel’ means research is required to assess the safety of the consumption of CBD products. However, with so many CBD products already available on UK shelves, regulators are having to regulate retrospectively. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has set a deadline of 31st March 2021 for all novel food applications to be submitted. After this deadline, only products with a valid application (either approved or at least submitted) will be allowed to remain on the market.
A combination of a young, rapidly growing industry and a complex formulation process featuring previously prohibited ingredients means robust scientific testing has been lacking. To address this issue, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) partnered with the Advanced Development and Safety Laboratory (ADSL) to carry out a first-of-its-kind study. The ACI created a consortium of dozens of UK manufacturers to collaborate and pool their testing resources and capabilities. These companies provide ACI with samples of their products and the ACI provides the safety information required for the FSA novel foods application. This collaboration by all accounts has been a resounding success. On the back of this, the ACI recently submitted its novel food application to the FSA on behalf of CBD manufacturers before the deadline.
Result for consumers and retailers
The end goal of the ACI-led consortium is that only products tested by their group and approved by the FSA will be sold in the UK going forward. Consumers can be confident that all CBD products manufactured in the UK will have undergone rigorous safety testing and genuinely contain what they claim. While retailers can now enter the industry without any ambiguity or concern over where their products are coming from. Industry leaders hope this removal of uncertainty will boost integrity and trust in the industry which could further bolster its growth.