Germany Rectifies on CBD Being ‘Novel Food’

EIHA President, Daniel Kruse, said “hemp food products made from traditionally produced extracts with the natural full spectrum of the cannabinoids contained in the hemp plant are not novel foods. For the German hemp food industry this statement by the government and the ministry is an important milestone”
Luca Marani
Written by Luca Marani, Cannabis Educator
Last Updated
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The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) recently brought home a great victory for the European hemp market. On March 4th2020, the EIHA published via their social media a document reporting on the latest developments about the status of CBD- and hemp-foods. In this document, the organization announces that the German Federal Government took their side in the battle for the market normalization of these products. In 2019, the EIHA had filed a complaint to the German Federal Government in regards to a statement issued by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) on March 20th of the same year. Said statement declared that any type of foodstuffs containing CBD must be considered ‘novel foods’.

But first, what is a ‘novel food’?

According to the EU’s website, all foods “that had not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the EU before 15 May 1997, when the first Regulation on novel food came into force” fall into this category. Therefore, in the BVL’s own words, producers of CBD-rich hemp-based foods should submit “either an application for authorization of a medicinal product or […] of a novel food”, in order to prove the safety of the product before it is put on the market.

The EIHA’s argument

The argument presented against the BVL’s statement drew, first of all, a differentiation between extracts containing the natural full spectrum of cannabinoids and CBD-enriched products. While the EIHA acknowledged the BVL’s statement to be correct as far as the latter case go, they defined it “legally incorrect and inaccurate” in regards to the former. Cannabidiol, as we know, is a naturally occurring cannabinoid, found in crops of EU-certified Cannabis sativa L.: CBD has always been present in the plant and its parts. The argument then brought into account the concept of ‘foodstuffs’ as conceived by the LFGB (the German Food and Feedstuffs Code) and by the 178/2002 Directive of the European Union, to first rule out the idea of authorizing CBD-containing foods as medical products. It then proceeded to notice that the consumption CBD-rich foods containing parts of the Cannabis plant, in vegetal or extracted form, took place to a relevant extent way before the above-mentioned Novel Food Regulation took effect in May 1997. Furthermore, the EIHA corroborated their point by referring to two communications issued on the matter by the EU Commission in 1998, which stated that those foods containing parts of the hemp plant do not fall under the Novel Food Regulation.

Germany endorses the EIHA’s point of view

After extensive discussion, the EIHA’s standpoint on the matter received endorsement by the German Federal Government and its Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), both distancing themselves from the BVL’s original statement. The public institutions recognized that, according to the 2015/2283 EU Regulation, foods containing naturally-derived CBD are not ‘novel foods’. Accordingly, the definition could still apply to those products that producers artificially enrich with CBD isolate. In their response to the EIHA, also the BVL itself acknowledged the validity of the argument presented against its position. It also validated the mentioned distinction between naturally extracted and enriched products, and recognized that foodstuffs containing parts of the cannabis plant included, legally speaking, also the extracted form. However, in the document announcing the accomplishment, the European Industrial Hemp Association notices that, as of February 27th2020, the BVL was still to apply any changes to what they previously published in regards to CBD- and hemp-foods. Still, European producers of hemp-based foods containing CBD that has not been artificially added, can now stand on solid legal grounds at the time of freely putting their products on the German market.

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Luca Marani
Luca Marani
Cannabis Educator
Luca Marani is an educator and content creator from Italy. He graduated in 2017 from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, with a Master of Arts in Political Philosophy, writing a dissertation on what was the state of the medical cannabis legislative framework in Spain at the time, and how it affected the rights of the Spanish medical cannabis users community to dignity and quality of life.

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