On January 15, 2019 the European Commission decided to modify the entries relating to “Cannabis sativa” and “CBD” in the EU’s “Novel Food Catalogue”, making it more difficult for products with cannabinoids to enter the EU market without a pre-market approval as novel foods according to Regulation 2015/2283.
Following that decision, all extracts of hemp and derived products containing cannabinoids are now considered novel. Hemp seeds, flour and seed oil remain permitted.
What has changed?
The Novel Food Catalogue entry for Cannabis sativa has been changed as follows:
“[…] Some products derived from the Cannabis sativa plant or plant parts such as seeds, seed oil, hemp seed flour, defatted hemp seed have a history of consumption in the EU and therefore, are not novel. Other specific national legislation may restrict the placing on the market of this product as a food or food ingredient in some Member States. Therefore, it is recommended to check with the national competent authorities”.
The entry for CBD now refers to the wider class of “cannabinoids” which states:
“[...] extracts of Cannabis sativa L. and derived products containing cannabinoids are considered novel foods as a history of consumption has not been demonstrated. This applies to both the extracts themselves and any products to which they are added as an ingredient (such as hemp seed oil). This also applies to extracts of other plants containing cannabinoids. Synthetically obtained cannabinoids are considered as novel”.
In conclusion, hemp seeds, flour and seed oil are not novel. All extracts of hemp and derived products containing cannabinoids are considered novel.
The decision follows a meeting of the EU Novel Foods PAFF Committee on October 16, 2018, where two branch organizations were invited to outline the traditional food use of hemp extracts. Their presentation failed to convince the EC because no new information on the history of use of cannabidiol was provided.
Where we go from here?
Firms who want to market ingredients from other plant parts, hemp extracts or derived products have following options under Regulation 2015/2283 on novel foods:
1. Demonstrate the significant history of use of their ingredient through the official consultation procedure provided for in article 4;
2. Submit a notification for a traditional food from third countries, as referred to in Section II, if the history of safe food use in a third country for at least 25 years can be demonstrated; or
3. Submit a dossier for the registration of a novel food, as referred to in Section I.
A scientific opinion of the EFSA on the safety of a purified CBD extract as a novel food is expected in the coming months.
The Novel Food Catalogue is a non-exhaustive list of ingredients, which serves as orientation on whether a product will need an authorization under to the Novel Food Regulation. If food ingredients were used exclusively in food supplements, new uses in other foods also require authorization. Information on the history of significant consumption can be send to the national authorities for verification. The EC amends the Catalogue based information provided by the Member States.
 The full entry reads as follows: “the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa L.) contains a number of cannabinoids and the most common ones are as follows: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), its precursor in hemp, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (Δ9-THCA-A), delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid B (Δ9-THCA-B), delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ8-THC), cannabidiol (CBD), its precursor in hemp cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (Δ9-THCV). Without prejudice to the information provided in the novel food catalogue for the entry relating to Cannabis sativa L., extracts of Cannabis sativa L. and derived products containing cannabinoids are considered novel foods as a history of consumption has not been demonstrated. This applies to both the extracts themselves and any products to which they are added as an ingredient (such as hemp seed oil). This also applies to extracts of other plants containing cannabinoids. Synthetically obtained cannabinoids are considered as novel!”