Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Update on the Food Standards Agency’s CBD Fiasco

with 6 comments

At midday today the FSA will publish a ‘public list’ of 3500 CBD products on its website.

What does it mean? What are the products? Does this mean they are legally allowed to be on sale?

These and many other questions come to mind, as a result of which I arranged an online meeting this morning with Paul Tossell, Team Leader on Novel Foods with the FSA.

I only became aware of today’s announcement because I heard from a journalist friend that there was an advance media briefing yesterday. You may well ask and I certainly did, why were the media being briefed before the industry? My roles in CLEAR, CannaPro, the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) and my past role in the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) mean that I am well established, along with others, as a stakeholder. Yet, neither I nor anyone else in any of the trade bodies have been contacted by the FSA – except that is, of course, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) and its sister organisation, the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC). That is no surprise at all to anyone who knows the history of the FSA’s blunder into the CBD market. It has an improper relationship with ACI/CMC and the three of them have conspired together to create an absurd bureaucracy of vastly expensive but wholly unnecessary regulations which no doubt give preferential status to the few, large companies, mostly in the CBD isolate business, which are associated with ACI/CMC.

My meeting with Paul Tossell followed exactly the same format as all the other meetings I have had with him and his colleagues over the past years. It was a monologue. I couldn’t get a word in edgeways and all Tossell was interested in was very long, very turgid, pointless explanations of the FSA’s process. He wouldn’t answer any of my questions properly.

This is what I have learned.

None of the 3500 products on the list are ‘legal’ in the FSA’s terms and Trading Standards may remove and confiscate any of them at any time. All 3500 are the result of just five novel foods applications which have been ‘validated’ and 65 applications which have not yet been ‘validated’ but look like they are ‘work in progress’ towards providing the information necessary for validation.

Apparently the purpose of the list is to help Trading Standards set its priorities for enforcement. So if a product isn’t on the list it stands no chance of ever being officially ‘legal’. In fact, as has been obvious all along and as I now have from a source right at the top of Trading Standards, it doesn’t have the resources or the intention of going after CBD products. It has far more important things to do, such as going after products which genuinely are dangerous.

As anyone who knows me will confirm, I am no shy and retiring type but I had to be extremely forceful and insistent to try and get a couple of key questions to Tossell, neither of which were answered.

Firstly, what is the basis for this intervention, what evidence do you have that these products can be harmful? This was dismissed as “You’ve got it the wrong way round.” He’d already said that “Consumers need to know the product is safe, that’s the whole point of this.” I couldn’t get any answer and of course the truth is there is no evidence of any danger, or of anyone ever coming to any harm. All Tossell can do is repeatedly refer back to his bureaucratic process which is entirely for its own sake and has no substantive purpose.

My second question was that the scope of novel foods was originally defined by the FSA as being about products that are selective extracts from cannabis. As I’ve been asking for years, what about genuine whole plant extracts which are non-selective extracts? Back came the same old non-answer, side-stepping the question and referring to cold pressed products. When I pressed him that other methods of extraction could be non-selective, he simply denied this and refused to discuss it any further, saying it had been “settled” two years ago.

Novel food applications which have been ‘validated’ will still need to go through further processes. Risk assessment where an independent scientific body will give an opinion. Then risk management where any necessary actions will be determined and finally, extraordinarily, every single product which is to be determined as ‘legal’ will have to be named in a Statutory Instrument which will have to be passed into law by Parliament.

The absurdity and pointlessness of all this is beyond doubt but it is more serious than that. The only evidence on which the FSA’s concern for any harm is based is experiments on rats by GW Pharmaceuticals with its CBD isolate medicine, Epidiolex, administered at doses hundreds or thousands of times the equivalent in humans. And the conflict of interest is obvious. I am no enemy of GW, on the contrary I admire the company and its work but it has the only licensed CBD medicine and its interest would be to restrict access to non-licensed products.

Also, it is my honest opinion that the relationship between the FSA and ACI/CMC is corrupt. Dishonesty, deceit and obfusaction are being used for the purposes of gain, both in a commercial sense and for the sake of bureaucratic power.

All that the FSA’s intervention in the CBD market will achieve, aside from the enormous damage to businesses and jobs, is to promote the black market. For consumers the situation is only going to get worse. They will have the choice of ‘legal’ but useless, ineffective, isolate-based products or the wild west of totally unregulated products, some of which are the ‘real thing’ but many of which are produced and marketed by cowboys.

I set out a year ago the two very simple steps which, taken together, will completely solve the regulatory requirements for the CBD market.

The FSA’s actions are without any real purpose. The novel foods regulations are solely for their own sake and establish a pointless bureaucratic process at huge expense which will only make things worse for consumers.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 31, 2022 at 11:50 am

6 Responses

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  1. Have you considered a legal review into the FSA process and its relationship with ACI/CMC? I’m not a lawyer, but it would seem there must be a mechanism to complain or even have the legality of the situation reviewed. A crowdfund appeal would pay the legal costs. Alternatively, Paul Tossell will have a line manager. Perhaps it’s time to go above his head. If someone is creating a monopoly, there is a crime being committed. Just my 10p worth.

    David Smith

    March 31, 2022 at 2:17 pm

    • The entire FSA is signed up to this right up to its CEO, Emily Miles. See: https://businesscann.com/one-year-late-the-fsa-publishes-list-of-eligible-uk-cbd-products-for-now/

      I agree that a judicial review would be a way forward but the time and committment required to do this, including crowdfunding, is not something I could do and I don’t see anyone else or any of the trade bodies willing to take it forward. Any enforcement by Trading Standards is just going to tokenism and I think the small companies that make up the majority of the CBD market are content either to rely on their supplier to deal with the issue and/or to continue trading in the whole plant products whioch are effective and what consumers want.

      Peter Reynolds

      March 31, 2022 at 3:44 pm

  2. Hi Peter Our brand containing 8% oils (16% patste)& 25% all made the list without our CBG & Pets. Regards, Marc.

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    Marc McDonald

    April 1, 2022 at 8:44 am

    • Yes but the list means bugger all, Marc! It’s just a reflection of the complete cock-up the FSA has made. All it means is your products might, at some indeterminate time in the future, be deemed ‘legal’ under whatever scheme it is running then.

      Peter Reynolds

      April 1, 2022 at 10:04 am

  3. […] prior to the list’s publication Peter Reynolds published an article on his blog, criticising the FSA’s handling of the process and its initial basis for intervention into […]

  4. […] prior to the list’s publication Peter Reynolds published an article on his blog, criticising the FSA’s handling of the process and its initial basis for intervention into […]


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