The Status of Hemp extracts in Europe

The Context

Verb “extrahere” derives from latin and it means to draw out or to remove. It concerns any method that uses a solid, liquid or gaseous extraction agent to remove one or several components from a substance mixture (of solid, liquid or gaseous substances). Most of us consume an extracts on a daily as many of us drink coffee. On that basis a correct sentence would be “Would you like a coffee extract?”.
Cannabinoids (the most abundant of which is CBD) are naturally occurring components of the industrial hemp pant (>0.2% THC in the seeds) and are extracted using four traditional methods. CBD is non psychotropic, non-intoxicating, not addictive, very well tolerated by humans even in large doses. Most important, according to EIHA research hemp extracts have been consumed by people for many centuries.
Consumers are interested in health promoting hemp extracts in foods and it is a sought after ingredient in cosmetics.
All food ingredients, including Hemp extracts, are regulated by a EU Catalogue on Novel Food, however this is not a binding document for Member States. As per EU definition, a Novel Food is a food that have not been consumed to a significant degree before 15 of May 1997.
Historic evidence confirms that hemp extracts rich in cannabinoids (including CBD) were part of our diet for many centuries. The EIHA position remains that whole plant hemp extracts are not Novel Food.
Without industry consultation, the change of wording in January 2019 to the Novel Food Catalogue resulted in many negative consequences for the European industrial hemp sector. Even though hemp extracts are not formally nor legally forbidden by Europe, disproportionate and unjustified measures have been taken in relation to food products containing CBD in many European states.
The entry of Cannabis sativa L was also fundamentally changed, stating that only below products are food:

  • only seed derived products are considered food,
  • leaves and flowers are now considered not explicitly exempted from the scope of Novel Food (Regulation (EU) 2015/2283) which has moved them from previously foods into a ‘grey zone’,
  • a new entry, called Cannabinoids, was created which now states that all hemp extracts are novel food.

This unnecessary, illogical and illicit change of the former Novel Food entry is unacceptable for EIHA members and the entire European hemp industry. Back in 1998, the hemp industry received written confirmation from the EU (PAFF Standing Committee) that hemp flowers/leaves are permitted for food use, because hemp has been in the human food chain for millennia and it is disingenuous to argue that leaves and flowers in food are novel today. Based on this decision, FBOs made investments in the hemp sector that should be paid-back today instead of being hindered by governments and decision-makers across Europe. Why is a food that was confirmed lawful 20 years ago, suddenly no longer legal today?

EIHA’s Actions

EIHA reiterate that CBD is a naturally occurring component of the hemp plant that has been extracted and used in the human diet for centuries. Therefore the position of EIHA is that leaves, flowers and hemp extracts are food, which means no authorisation is required to market hemp derived products. This approach only refers to natural food products in which the amount of Cannabidiol (CBD) does not exceed the natural amount present in the plant which was the guidelines as per the previous Novel Food catalogue entry and valid for years up to January 20th, 2019.
EIHA is currently closely working with Members States and the Commission to find a workable solution to this key issue. #UnlockTheFlower