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A letter of concern to the FSA

From The Hemp Hound Agency

Rules for thee, but not for me - How many times in the last few years have you come across this saying?

Well allow me to add one more case on top of the pile, which at the moment included classics such as Party-gate, questionable police activities over lockdowns, MP's giving their mates billions in failed PPE contracts, and of course the supposed conflicts of a certain Ex-PM/Home Secretary, as well as an Ex-Drugs Minister.

So, Novel Foods... I know you all must be getting sick of hearing about it by now, but certainly not as sick as the companies who have applications in yet still find their companies not on the list, or the companies who've only had half of their products listed. Either way, being listed as 'awaiting evidence', or not being listed at all after jumping through all the hoops that the FSA and HO put in place must be really, really frustrating.

If you find yourself to be one of these companies though, I'd like to think that what I'm about to share with you now will offer a little solace in the never ending battle for sanity. See, there's a few companies on that list who I believe shouldn't be on there, and I have proof to back up my claims, certainly with one company anyway.

Now you may ask who am I to say such a thing? Well, no one special, but from the reputation I do have it's known that I embrace the whole plant, and that I've worked with 100's of companies within the Hemp & CBD industry in some capacity or another to help them on to better things, whether that's by educated opinion and direction them to companies with services they didn't even know they needed.

In essence, I'm the type of guy who would rather help people from behind the scenes, but then I hate injustice, and it's when that injustice is close to my heart that I get loud. Considering that some voices in the industry are quiet or placated, perhaps with their own agendas in mind, I'd like to think that it's refreshing to know there's someone out there in the business world that spots the wider play in what is ultimately just another battle line in the war against cannabis.

Let's talk about the deadlines for Novel Foods, that's the one for products that were supposed to be on the market before the 13/02/2020 to qualify to be able to go through Novel Foods without having to go through the whole process. Any products created after this date were supposed to be removed from sale, and if companies chose to submit a Novel Foods application for those products, they would be require to go through the entirety of that process, with the products only being allowed on the shelves once they have been authorised.

So lets look at the 5 validated companies, how many of them do you think had products on sale before 13/02/2020? 1, 2... 3?

Sorry, but I'm uncertain on most, if not all of them. But there is one specifically that is of extreme interest to me, the first company that was listed, and the supplier of David Beckham's brand that has been reportedly told that they do not qualify for the list, presumably because his company had no products on UK shelves before the FSA deadline.

The company that I'm looking at barely ten months ago stated "“I don’t have any sympathy for companies who are complaining about the FSA. They are doing a good job, it’s all about consumer safety, to bring safe products to the consumer. Everybody, including us, was given a deadline. We knew the new legislation came in January 2019, everybody knew.”

That's an interesting statement, not just because of the disregard for competitor companies who helped build this industry before they even knew what CBD was, but also because nothing was known in January 2019 other than that in March of that year, there was going to be a big meeting at Brussels for the Hemp and CBD industry across the EU to argue that CBD products should not be subjected to Novel Foods.

If something 'was' known at this time, it suggests two things: A predetermined conclusion whilst giving the impression that talks were still underway, as well as what seems to be uncompetitive insider information!

This company also sells synthetic products, yet despite Novel Foods being about consumer safety and choice, as the company I'm focusing on themselves suggests, there is no requirements for companies who manufacture synthetic CBD products to label them as such, which at best can only be described as misleading the consumer that the FSA says it is 'trying' to protect.

'Synthetic', it's not 'real', so is it right to call a synthetic CBD product a CBD product at all? Most importantly, should they not be more stringently tested than natural, whole plant products? If the answer is yes to that, then why are we seeing synthetic CBD producers validated before any whole plant product have been?

I think these are very important questions, and I certainly would have asked them if The Hemp Hound Agency was recognised as an industry stakeholder, or had been invited to the 'Press Only' update to the Novel List update on 30/03/2022. The strange thing in that though, is that up until a couple of months ago, I was asked by the FSA to complete a survey on the basis of being one, I thought The Hemp Hound Agency was a stakeholder of sorts, but maybe the questionnaire got lost in the post...

Anyway, I hate being ignored, that's why I took up the Bagpipes at the age of 11. And you know what they say, "if you're going to war, you'll be needing a piper to lead the troops!".

On that basis, I would like to share with you an email that I have just sent to the FSA. I hope that you agree that the questions within it are fair, and certainly need to be answered if the industry as a whole is to carry on in good faith with the regulatory authorities that at best seem to have restricted the hemp and CBD industry for the past few years now.

"Dear Mr Tossall,

I hope this finds you well.

I am writing out of concern for the direction of CBD Novel Foods - I have been in the industry since 2016, and I have built up many relationships with companies and organisations in that time. Since then I have witnessed many attempts to clamp down on the industry from a few government organisations, with Novel Foods being the longest of all journeys.

The Hemp Hound Agency represents a few companies, most have interests with Novel Foods but all are affected by how it pans out, including those with products deemed as Novel Exempt. It is for them as well as myself that I have brought some concerns to you.

According to the FSA's own guidelines, companies not selling CBD products before 13/02/2020 would not be able to go through the Novel Foods process as is with the CBD industry as a whole. It was understood by the industry that if you had created new products after that deadline, they would have to be removed from sale until they are fully authorised.

May I draw your attention to Pureis, the first company to get listed, and instantly as "validated". Simply by looking at their first lab report it can be seen that they had no product available in the UK before 13/02/2020

This is Form: 001, please check the dates of the Cannabinoid Profile test, Microbial test, and the final document release date.

This is not some freshly set up CBD company who's just got round to sorting their lab reports out, it's a Pharmaceutical company, which means it's reasonable to assume that those lab reports were posted on their website on the day the products were first available. If that's the case, this product was available on 12/07/2021, and all the other products too have testing dates that clearly show this company did not have products on the shelves before the FSA's deadline.

I'm concerned, and for a few reasons:

  • The path to validation requires someone in the FSA to check that all required documents are in order, so someone should have been checking dates.

  • This is definitely not the only company, there are serious question marks in regards to Bod Australia and Brains Bioceuticals (and others) UK market activity pre 13/02/2020. (names redacted until completion of a full investigation)

  • It would seem that Pureis were validated before 12/07/2021, before they had physical products in the UK.

  • There are a lot of companies still waiting to be put on the Novel list, who did have products available before any deadline and jumped through every hoop that was placed in front of them by the FSA.

Sir, with the utmost respect, I feel I must inform you that I have submitted a complaint to the competitions watchdog in regards to the handling of Novel Foods, and what you could perceive from what I'm saying here as the creation of an anti-competitive landscape by the very agency who is supposed to create a safe and fair trading environment.

This however is not my only concern, the other I have is in regards to synthetic cannabinoid products.

May I ask:

  • There is a different 'type' of CBD that is created through genetically modified yeast, in that it's a photoshop, or facsimile. Has the FSA been made aware of the difference between lefthanded, and righthanded CBD molecules?

  • If the FSA 'are' aware, are they also aware that synthetic CBD has less binding potential to CB receptors, which reinforces the fact that it's different to plant derived CBD?

  • Are the FSA also aware that recent newspaper reports suggest that a woman recently died from eating sweets laced with synthetic cannabis without stating whether it was chemical or bio derived?

Sir, whole plant CBD products are going through Novel Foods on the grounds of safety, and a handful of lab reports from GW Pharmaceuticals. Even though the Novel Foods requirements are focusing on isolate products to the detriment of whole plant products, those isolates are still plant derived, and there's proof of whole plant products being available for (in some cases) over 10 years, and with no ill effect in that time.

How long has synthetic CBD products been about, and how can they not be subject to more stringent requirements for their Novel Food applications? I believe that the lab reports from GW should not be used to determine the requirements for synthetic products, 'apples and pears' springs to mind.

Further in regards to Novel Foods and synthetic cannabinoids, one of the key requirements for this process is for adequate labelling. On that basis, can you please tell me why Pureis is down on the list as having validated 'ultra pure' CBD products, and not 'Synthetic' CBD products? If Novel Foods is driven with consumer safety in mind, surely it is in the industry's interests to be open about products that are phyto-derived or synthetic.

Sir, I am preparing to write an industry article on this matter after I have fully researched the credentials of some of the companies that are down as 'awaiting evidence', as well as the 5 companies who were labelled as validated from the point that they were listed. I believe that the FSA have not been playing fair with the industry, in that the door has been opened to Pharmaceutical companies who had no products on the market before the FSA's deadline.

I would like to ask if you would be willing to set the record straight on the two concerns I have brought to your attention. as well as the anti-competitive atmosphere that hangs over the UK hemp and CBD markets due to Novel Foods.

Yours sincerely

The Hemp Hound Agency"


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