UK Issues Warning to ‘Vulnerable’ Consumers as Daily CBD Intake Guidance Significantly Reduced

UK Issues Drastic Reduction in Daily CBD Intake Advice, Highlights Risks for ‘Vulnerable’ Users

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK has significantly reduced its recommended daily intake of CBD, based on guidance from government committees.

According to the update, the FSA now suggests that consumers should take a maximum of 10mg or approximately 4-5 drops of 5% CBD oil per day. This is a decrease from the previous recommendation of 70mg issued in 2020. In comparison, the European Industrial Hemp Association has proposed a maximum daily intake level of 17.5mg of CBD to the European Food Safety Authority.

The FSA analyzed data collected during the safety assessment of over 12,000 products that are candidates for market approval under UK rules for new or “novel” foods. This data was reviewed by the FSA’s Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products, and the Environment (COT), an independent advisory committee that provides scientific advice to the UK government.

Effects on thyroid, liver

In a press release, the FSA stated, “We continue to advise that CBD is not taken by people in vulnerable groups, including children, people taking medication without consulting a medical professional, and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding and those trying to conceive.”

The agency also noted that “Above this (10mg) level and over a period of time, there is evidence of some adverse impacts on the liver and thyroid.”

Robin May, Chief Scientific Advisor at the FSA, commented, “The more CBD you consume over your lifetime, the more likely you are to develop long-term adverse effects, like liver damage or thyroid issues. 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.”

860 adverse reports

In early March, the FSA released a report issuing grave warnings about CBD, claiming that 10 people have died from taking CBD products. The agency stated that it had received 860 reports of adverse reactions as of February, although the timeframe was not specified.

The updated daily dosage advice is based on the average lifetime exposure to CBD-containing food products such as drinks, oils, sweets, bakery items, or drops. The FSA urges consumers to check labels because some products on the market have higher daily doses of CBD per serving than the recommended 10mg.

In the UK, CBD extracts were classified as “novel food” in January 2019, and all CBD food products require approval before legal sale. Although various CBD products have been available on the market for years, they are not yet approved as novel foods. However, the FSA allowed some of them to remain on the market under liberal rules while awaiting safety checks.

Safety reviews ongoing

To continue selling CBD products while awaiting final approval, products already in distribution must have been on sale before February 13, 2020. Any products introduced after that date are not eligible for consideration by the agency.

In early 2022, the FSA faced a high volume of CBD applications after stakeholders voiced concerns about the review process. As a result, the agency extended the application window by one year, leading to a significant increase in the number of products under review from around 3,500 to over 12,000.

Out of the 12,000 products, approximately 5,000 are in the first stage of the FSA’s review, while 6,000 have advanced to the second stage for safety assessment. More than 400 products have been eliminated from consideration and banned from the market.

The FSA expects the first fully authorized CBD products to be available in the latter half of 2023.

The UK’s domestic CBD market is estimated to be worth around £690 million ($850 million/€798 million).

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