EIHA statement leads to confusion over Germany’s novel food position

German authorities and a major European hemp association have disagreed on the implications of correspondence regarding the novel status of hemp extracts.

The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) said that a letter from German authorities confirmed they backed the association’s position of CBD-enriched extracts being novel. This means, by implication, that other hemp products with the natural full spectrum of cannabinoids are not novel, according to a media release from the EIHA published on 4th March 2020.

The German Federal Government and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) “clearly endorsed” the EIHA view that foodstuffs containing parts of the hemp plant are, in principle, not novel – though this does not automatically apply to isolated CBD or extracts enriched with CBD. It does however mean that food products made from traditionally produced extracts with the natural full spectrum of the cannabinoids contained in the hemp plant are not novel foods, the EIHA said.

“For the German hemp food industry this statement by the government and the ministry is an important milestone,” said Daniel Kruse, EIHA president.

Such a position – a U-turn from Germany’s strong policy stance on the issue – would mean that foods containing hemp parts (including flowers) with naturally-occurring CBD, as well as other cannabinoids, would be considered not novel according to EIHA’s view of the German government position.


German position ‘has not changed’


The EIHA said it now wanted the German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) to change its blanket statement that all food products containing CBD must either be a medicinal product or a novel food – and thus require the correct authorisation.

But German authorities have told CBD-Intel that their position on CBD in products had not changed and that the BMEL held the same opinion as the BVL.

Most hemp products, including those with cannabinoids, are still – in their view –novel, both told CBD-Intel.

“[The EIHA is] switching some things, mixing them up, and the statement isn’t right,” said a BMEL spokesperson. “The language they chose turned things upside down.”

The spokesperson stressed that “there is no opinion change from BVL or the food and agriculture ministry or the German government. The EIHA statement gives the idea that the ministry and BVL have a completely different position from the government, and this is not true”.

While the EIHA said the purported change of heart by the BVL and the BMEL came after “an intense and regular discussion”, the ministry spokesperson told CBD-Intel that no formal talks have been held on the issue.

“The only thing that happened was that the EIHA contacted the ministry and there was an opinion exchange about this issue,” the spokesperson explained.

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    No contact made over statement


    The ministry considered contacting the hemp association about the statement, the spokesperson added, but has not decided to do so.

    “We can only say that there was never anything like a change of opinion,” the BMEL spokesperson said. “We can guess why they’re writing what they’re writing, but we don’t know.”

    “For extracts of Cannabis sativa L. and derived products containing cannabinoids, a significant history of consumption in the EU has still not been demonstrated by the economic operators, nor by the EIHA or any other association,” BVL press officer Ansgar Weiss told CBD-Intel. “For this reason, they are still considered EU-wide as novel foods.”

    Within the federal government, the BVL is the competent authority for clarifying whether a product falls within the scope of the Novel Food Regulation. The office coordinates its position with the federal states, which regulate food in Germany.

    Weiss also noted that beyond the EU rules, national legislation in member states may also curb or forbid the use of hemp in foodstuffs. In Germany, he said, hemp products that are considered to be narcotics or medical goods are not marketable as food.


    What This Means: The BMEL told the EIHA in a November letter that has been shared with CBD-Intel: “hemp extracts enriched with CBD are novel foods subject to authorisation, provided they are not narcotics or medicinal products.”

    This was coupled with an earlier statement from the federal government that: “The opinions of the European Commission, which confirmed that foods containing parts of the hemp plant are not novel foods, remain valid.”

    The EIHA said this confirmed that it was only hemp extracts enriched with CBD or isolated CBD that were novel while hemp foods with naturally occurring cannabinoids – such as those found in parts of the hemp plant – were not novel.

    However, in the German government’s opinion, when speaking to CBD-Intel, that’s not the case. It maintains that its interpretation has not changed, and so cannabinoid-containing edibles are still likely to be considered novel whether they are enriched, isolated or naturally occurring.

    The EIHA told CBD-Intel it stands by its press statement and that the evidence shows that foods containing hemp parts (including flowers) with naturally-occurring CBD, as well as other cannabinoids, should not be considered novel. The EIHA’s line of arguments is also stated in a clear and detailed letter by the law firm Hermes Piper on behalf of the EIHA sent to the BVL two weeks ago, the association said.

    – CBD-Intel staff and contributing writers

    Photo: R+R Medicinals

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    This article was written by one of CannIntelligence’s international correspondents. We currently employ more than 40 reporters around the world to cover individual cannabis and cannabinoid markets. For a full list, please see our Who We Are page.