The Food Standards Agency has moved to address concerns about the novel foods regulations roll out after 48 hours of confusion in the industry.
Officials working for the regulator are sifting through more than 750 applications made before the March 31 deadline that was set ahead of the imposition of new rules on the sector.
On April 19, the FSA published the first public register of products which have been ‘validated’ and given the green light to remain on UK shelves pending full authorisation – but just 23 products from three firms were included.
As previously reported, there is widespread uncertainty and frustration in the CBD industry over what the drip-feeding of validations means for businesses not included on the initial list.
Despite this, one regulation expert has predicted there will not be significant enforcement issues arising from the roll out.
The regulator has already confirmed to Cannabis Wealth that the public register will not be completed until June, despite the fact that it is now available to enforcement authorities, with new updates made on a weekly basis.
Under UK law, health and safety regulations set by the FSA are enforced by the trading standard departments of local authorities as opposed to a national agency.
An FSA spokesperson said, while the list is incomplete, local authorities will be able to check directly with the FSA over whether an application decision is pending before making any enforcement decision about a product not yet on the list.
The spokesperson wrote: “Local authorities have been made aware that the list will grow as applications are processed and can check the status of an application with us (the FSA) until the list is complete.”
Despite the enforcement grey area created by the roll out, the FSA will not publish a list of applications waiting for a decision, a move which industry insiders think would help clear up confusion for consumers, enforcement bodies and retailers.
An FSA spokesperson wrote: “There are no plans to publish a list of applications pending validation (i.e.: those that have been submitted by the 31 March deadline but are still to be processed).
“The list is being updated weekly so all applications will be addressed in due course.
“Local authorities have been made aware that the list will grow as applications are processed and can check the status of an application with us until the list is complete.”
But Duncan Reed, partner at law firm TLT, told Cannabis Wealth he does not believe there will be a raft of enforcement issues arising from the FSA’s decision to publish a short, unfinished register.
He said: “The list is surprisingly short when you consider the number of suppliers to the UK, although it appears to be less a case of ‘if your name’s not on the list, you’re not allowed to sell’ and more a case of ‘your name’s not on the list yet’. Clearly, there is some sort of backlog of applications.
“This is arguably not a new situation for retailers to find themselves in, because as soon as EFSA announced that CBD was classified as a novel food, there has been uncertainty about whether it was strictly legal to sell these products on UK shelves, and that’s something we’ve been advising a lot of clients on.
“It will be interesting to see how local authorities police this. Will they be pounding the streets demanding that products be removed from sale, or will they struggle to do anything?
“I think there’s unlikely to be a sudden, drastic reaction to this. That’s just not where things have been leading.
“If retailers are being prudent, they can check the latest version of the FSA’s register and then seek to manage the residual risks through the drafting and enforcement of their supplier agreements.”