UK FSA updates novel food list – but what difference will it make to the market?

The recent update to the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA)’s list of CBD products linked to validated novel food applications has created further issues and questions in the industry. Perhaps the biggest of all is: After all that time, effort and expense, what will actually change?

And the answer from one point of view is: Very little. When looking at the list of products, it seems it has been either larger CBD companies, CBD companies that sell through major retailers, or smaller brands that are based on a social responsibility/safety image that have been successful in gaining validation.

This, when coupled with the acknowledged resource-strapped state of Trading Standards (TS), suggests little is going to change on the UK market through the short to mid-term.

Trading Standards, product enforcement officials linked to local government in the UK, have previously said that given the wide range of enforcement issues, they must prioritise. And after issues of safety, illicit alcohol and tobacco are likely to be the concern of most individual TS units. Beyond that, most will only act on non-safety novel food compliance issues if directed to do so by complaints received.

This means it will likely take a series of complaints for any non-novel food application supported products not voluntarily withdrawn from the market to face enforcement action. It is likely such complaints will arise from competitors as well as industry associations supporting compliant companies. (Some calls for action have already been made, to mixed feelings among those running businesses, regardless of compliance status.)

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    But given the piecemeal nature of TS enforcement – with different local government branches able to operate fairly autonomously – and the likely small retail nature of non-compliant products, any efforts to force action to be taken could be a long drawn-out process.

    In effect, the big wins have already been made. Large retailers have only been working with companies that have been moving towards compliance and few listings among the major sellers will be affected by the eventual fully published list, expected 30th June (assuming updates between now and then do not accidentally again leave products off through clerical error).

    So it could be said that’s the objective novel food validation was hoping to achieve – keep large retailers to selling more rigorously regulated products, under the assumption that is safer for consumers. But in terms of market make-up, it remains to be seen just how much difference a full published list will make.

    Freddie Dawson CBD-Intel staff

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

    • You can now download for free our full regulatory briefing “UK FSA finally publishes long-rumoured list of validated novel food applications” using the form at the top of this page.

    Freddie Dawson

    Senior news editor
    Freddie studied at King’s College, London and City University and worked for publications including The Times, The Malay Mail, PathfinderBuzz and Solar Summary before joining the ECigIntelligence team. He has extensive experience in covering fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), manufacturing and technological innovation.