EU - Does Cannabidiol (CBD) in Food Supplements Pose a Serious Health Risk? Consequences of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Clock Stop Regarding Novel Food Authorisation
Mar 20, 2023
In the European Union (EU), cannabidiol (CBD) products extracted from Cannabis sativa L. require pre-marketing authorisation under the novel food regulation. Currently, 19 CBD applications are being assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). During the initial assessment of the dossiers, the EFSA Panel on Nutrition, Novel Foods, and Food Allergens (NDA) identified several knowledge gaps that need to be addressed before the evaluation of CBD can be finalised. The effects of CBD on the liver, gastrointestinal tract, endocrine system, nervous system, psychological function, and reproductive system need to be clarified. The contribution of this research is to provide an evidence-based assessment of the potential risks associated with CBD products, and to provide recommendations for risk management in the European Union while awaiting the finalisation of novel food applications. The available literature allows for a benchmark dose (BMD)–response modelling of several bioassays, resulting in a BMD lower confidence limit (BMDL) of 20 mg/kg bw/day for liver toxicity in rats. Human data in healthy volunteers showed increases in the liver enzymes alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase in one study at 4.3 mg/kg bw/day, which was defined by the EFSA NDA panel as the lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL). The EFSA NDA panel recently concluded that the safety of CBD as a novel food cannot be assessed, resulting in a so-called clock stop for the applications until the applicants provide the required data. The authors suggest that certain CBD products still available on the EU market as food supplements despite the lack of authorisation should be considered “unsafe”. Products exceeding a health-based guidance value (HBGV) of 10 mg/day should be considered “unfit for consumption” (Article 14(1) and (2)(b) of Regulation No. 178/2002), while those exceeding the human LOAEL should be considered “injurious to health” (Article 14(1) and (2)(a) of Regulation No 178/2002).