Michael Staines
Michael Staines

11.45 13 Feb 2020


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The UK Government is advising women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to avoid the cannabis extract CBD.

CBD products are widely available on the high street and are advertised as a natural remedy for a range of symptoms – including things like pain, anxiety and inflammation.

In its first set of guidelines, the British Food Standards Agency said healthy adults should “think carefully” before consuming CBD products.

Adults are advised to limit the amount they take to 70mg a day unless under medical direction. The agency said 70mg is equivalent to about 28 drops of 5% CBD.

It is advising pregnant women, new mothers and people who are taking medication to avoid CBD products entirely.

CBD An illuminated sign in the window of a store in New York advertises the sale of CBD products, 18-08-2019. Image: Richard B. Levine/SIPA USA/PA Images

FSA Chief Executive Emily Miles said: “CBD products are widely available on the high street but are not properly authorised.”

“We are advising that CBD could be risky for vulnerable groups and suggesting an upper limit of 70mg a day for everyone else taking the product,” she said.

“The actions that we’re taking today are a pragmatic and proportionate step in balancing the protection of public health with consumer choice.”

She said the precautionary advice is based on recent finding from the UK Government’s Committee on Toxicity (COT).

CBD Cannabidiol (CBD) extract infused candy in Canada, 07-04-2019. Image: Richard B. Levine

Committee Chair Professor Alan Boobis said there is evidence suggesting “potential adverse health effects from the consumption of these products.”

“We are particularly concerned about pregnant or breast-feeding women and people on medication,” he said.

“We don’t know enough to be sure about such a risk but I am pleased with the sensible and pragmatic approach the FSA is taking.

“The committee will continue to keep these products under review in the months ahead.”

CBD Cannabidiol (CBD) beers are pictured for sale in a store in Portland, Oregon, 17-05-2019. Image: Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA

CBD is not psychoactive and is legal throughout most of Europe; however, its sale remains something of a grey area in Ireland.

Under EU law, CBD products are legal, provided they contain no more than 0.2% of the psychoactive component of the plant, THC.

However, under Ireland’s Misuse of Drugs Act, anything containing any percentage of THC is illegal.

Things become even more complicated when the different methods of extraction are taken into account – with any method invented after 15th May 1997 considered a ‘novel food’ under EU law – and therefore legal provided they have the required authorisation.

The Department of Health has said it aims to change the law to explicitly permit CBD products.

The British FSA has given CBD sellers a deadline of March 2021 to apply for ‘novel food’ authorisation.

Any business that fails to submit the application could see their products taken off the market.


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