The Portman Group’s first decision on a complaint regarding a CBD product has gone largely unreported but could have a very significant impact on that part of the market.
The voluntary alcohol industry regulator has said it is bringing out further guidance for producers of CBD alcoholic beverages – the first time it will have addressed the issue. So it is important to wait until a firm conclusion has been reached in that guidance.
However, for the time being it is extremely worrying that the Portman Group’s preliminary opinion is that simply calling a product a CBD alcohol product, using CBD in the title or brand name, or even featuring the word prominently on packaging is akin to an implied health claim as consumers broadly perceive CBD as a beneficial substance. They would thus consider an alcoholic beverage advertised as containing CBD as something that could impart some form of health benefit.
The decision could effectively end the commercially viable large-scale production of CBD alcoholic beverages in the UK. Numerous major drink distributors are signatories to Portman Group voluntary code agreements. A decision to issue a Retailer Alert Bulletin (RAB) – as was the case in the Colorado High CBD gin in question – would result in many major retail outlets now being off limits to the product in question.
If the Portman Group was to decide that any reference to CBD outside the ingredients list was a health claim, then it would only be a matter of time until it began to take action against other CBD alcohol brands, leaving them to either remain niche products sold through limited outlets or sell their products without mention of the CBD content – the main unique selling point of the beverage.
Effectively, the Portman Group could remove alcohol as a viable niche CBD product if it goes through as planned. And as the UK is one of the only areas where CBD alcohol products are allowed in any form, this could be a business-threatening decision for those involved or interested in the area.
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