The Cannabis Conversation: Interview on CBD & Novel Foods

The Cannabis Conversation offers podcasts exploring the emerging legal cannabis industry through a European perspective.  This week our MD, Catherine Wilson, who is also Vice President of The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) was invited to discuss the evolving categorisation of cannabis under the Novel Foods Regulations, EIHA’s ‘Hemp Manifesto', and why UK hemp legislation needs to change.
In the podcast Catherine will share how she came across CBD in 2014, talk about settting up Cannawell in 2015 and how her fascination with the hemp plant grew over the years.  
 Cannawell was set up by Catherine in early 2015 with a single consignment of goods and has grown into a flourishing company who are now one of the longest established CBD companies in the UK. Catherine entered the industry knowing little about hemp, but with an interest in its environmental credentials with a background in the environmental and recycling sector.
The Hemp Manifesto was released by EIHA in April 2020 and serves as a roadmap, aiming to underscore hemp’s potential for reducing climate change and to unlock the potential of the whole plant. It looks at how we can recognise hemp as a valuable raw material, bringing it into major product manufacturing across construction, plastic alternative, textiles etc.
Hemp is an environmentally beneficial and unique crop, but in the UK farmers can only cultivate the stems and seeds. The leaves and flowers fall under the category of Cannabis without exemption, and so are a controlled substance.
Catherine believes that the hemp plant has a number of powerful applications, but people are not using it because of the legislative difficulties involved with its cultivation. In the UK, a license is needed to grow the crop.
Hemp can be compared to crude oil in the sense that it has so much potential, but needs to be refined.
In the UK at the moment, we don’t have the equivalent processing infrastructure to turn biomass into suitable materials for further manufacturing. Therefore, we can't attract investment into this area, especially when the legislation around this area is hostile and outdated.
In 2016, legislative confusion began when the MHRA issued a letter to some CBD sellers for making health claims. Catherine later joined the advisory board in late 2016 because of her previous experience in environmental compliance.
In 1997, the EU introduced the Novel Foods Catalogue, which helps to protect consumers from potentially dangerous foods. Cannabis Sativa L (industrial hemp) was included in this catalogue.
A Novel Food is defined as food 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. 'Novel Foods' can be newly developed, innovative food, food produced using new technologies and production processes, as well as food which is or has been traditionally eaten outside of the EU.
In 2016, Cannabidiol was entered into the catalogue stating that as long as the CBD does not contain more CBD than is naturally found in the plant, it is a food. If it contains more than is naturally found in the plant, it becomes a novel food.
In January 2019, the catalogue entry was changed - with Cannabis Sativa was removed and the guidance under the ‘cannabinoids’ entry stated that every hemp extract and every cannabinoid were now to be considered novel.
Cannabinoids have been consumed in the EU for centuries, some of the earliest evidence of this includes a recipe from 1475 in one of the world’s oldest cookbooks.
EIHA would like the novel foods category entry which was in place until January 2019 reinstated, which was supported by its members. EIHA will be submitting a consortium application on behalf of their members to both the EFSA and the UK FSA.
‘If we want to do [business] properly, we first need to get the legislative environment which encourages the sector’ 08:05
Join Catherine on LinkedIn:
European Industrial Hemp Association Website:
Cannawell Website: