What is CBD? Effects explained - and what the Food Standards Agency said about safety of cannabidiol products

The FSA says it remains concerned about CBD due to a lack of studies about it being consumed as food

The FSA has taken the next step in regulating the CBD market.
The FSA has taken the next step in regulating the CBD market.
The FSA has taken the next step in regulating the CBD market.

The FSA has released a list of CBD (cannabidiol) products it is working on authorising for sale in the UK.

To date, no food products containing CBD – found within hemp and cannabis – have been authorised for sale in the UK.

Find out what the FSA have said about the CBD market here and how many products are on the list.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, known as CBD, is one of the 113 identified cannabinoids in cannabis plants - and accounts for 40% of the plant’s extract.

It is most commonly used to treat pain, anxiety, inflammation, and insomnia.

CBD extracts are available in UK shops, cafes and online in the form of oils, drops, gels, confectionery, bakery products and drinks.

Are CBD food products safe, what has the FSA said?

Despite the move, FSA chief executive Emily Miles said the FSA: “does remain concerned about CBD” because of a lack of studies about it when consumed as a food.

The FSA also stressed it wasn’t endorsing products and just because a product is on the list, it doesn’t mean it will be authorised.

She added: “While we haven’t yet been shown enough evidence to say that CBD is unsafe, nor is there enough evidence to show that it is safe.”

She said as the CBD market is growing rapidly, the FSA has been working to move the CBD industry into compliance.

She continued: “Today we have taken the next step in our pragmatic approach to making sure CBD products are safe and what they say they are.

“We have created the public list to help local authorities and retailers prioritise products to be removed from sale. If a product is not on the list, it should be removed from sale because it is not attached to a credible application to us for market authorisation.

“But being on the list means that the application is credible and the FSA has, or is shortly expecting to receive, significant scientific evidence from the applicant with which to judge safety.

“I want to emphasise that the FSA is not endorsing products on the public list, and inclusion on the list is no guarantee that they will be authorised as they have they not yet been fully assessed for safety.

“But we have taken the step of publishing the list so that local authorities, retailers and consumers can make informed judgments about what they stock and buy, as we gradually bring this growing market into compliance with the law.”

What CBD products are on the public list?

The FSA published a public list on Thursday 31 March 2022 - to show which products have a credible application to be authorised.

There are 3,536 products on the list, 3,479 of which are awaiting evidence, including a range of gummies, tinctures and sprays.

The FSA is now calling on local authorities and retailers to help bring the CBD market into compliance by removing products that do not appear on the list or are marked as ‘removed’.

Any products on the list marked as ‘validated’ or ‘awaiting evidence’ may stay on the market in England and Wales, pending further consideration.

This list applies to England and Wales only.

What are the guidelines?

CBD products do not have a history of consumption before May 1997, so they need to be assessed by the FSA before being sold in the UK.

The FSA advises that consumers “think carefully” before taking CBD products.

They also recommend that people in vulnerable groups, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and those on any medication, do not use it unless under medical direction.

Although there have been very few scientific studies, some do suggest that CBD could affect the liver if taken at higher doses.

As a precaution, the FSA recommends healthy adults shouldn’t take more than 70mg a day which is about 28 drops of 5% CBD - unless a doctor has agreed on a higher dose.