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CBD drinks come under fire from the FSA

Published:  13 October, 2023

The future of CBD drinks made using cannabidiol is looking uncertain today as the Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced that it has slashed the recommended daily dose from 70mg to just 10mg.

The drastic decrease has implications for brands such as Trip, one of the UK’s fastest growing soft drinks according to Nielsen, which contains 15mg of CBD per 250ml can.

The advice is based on new evidence from the industry as well as input from the FSA’s independent scientific committee, which noted that “long-term daily chronic use of pure form CBD at intake levels higher than 10 mg CBD/day could contribute to the development of adverse effects over time, most notably in the liver.”

“The level of risk is related to how much you take, in the same way it is with some other potentially harmful products such as alcoholic drinks,” added FSA chief scientific advisor Prof Robin May.

CBD products were accorded Novel Food status in the UK in January 2019, meaning they could be licensed and legally sold in many guises, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. An explosion of innovation followed, with the likes of C&C Group quickly firming up a distribution partnership with Trip to supply Sainsbury’s, Boots and Waitrose, as well as the on-trade.

However, a major question mark has continued to hang over the category thanks to an ongoing review. This began in 2020, when the maximum daily recommended intake for CBD drinks was set at 70mg.

Since then, the FSA has been looking to reassess who is on their approved list of brands, and thus able to sell into the UK, by asking for evidence and working on a case-by-case basis.

Currently, 12,000 products are on that FSA list. Whether brands will have to reapply for novel food status following this week’s guidelines change, remains to be seen.

Earlier this year, Craig Hutchison, co-founder of Mindful Brands, which sold Ceder’s – the non-alcoholic Seedlip challenger – to Pernod Ricard in 2021, told Harpers that the uncertainty is stifling much needed drinks innovation.

“There are so many unknowns… Amazon isn’t taking on new listings. When you don’t have regulatory support, how are you supposed to get a listing? How are we supposed to grow our brand?” he said.

According to the Association for The Cannabinoid Industry, the value of the UK CBD market was £690m in 2021 and is expected to hit £1bn by 2025.