Food and cosmetic hemp, stench of burning in Brussels


The industrial hemp supply chain is experiencing new uncertainties, following unusual stances by the European Commission on its possible uses in the food and cosmetics sectors. Stench of burning.

Industrial hemp and hemp derivatives, obstacles to free movement in EU

The European database of ‘
Novel Food
‘, in its latest update (15.1.19), introduced new definitions and uncertainties about Cannabis Sativa L. and products derived from it. Until two months ago, the plant as such was not considered ‘novel food’ based on its history of safe use and consumption prior to 25.5.97. (1) Instead, the European Commission’s new text opens up new possibilities for national restrictions not justified by food safety or other requirements.

In the European Union.
, the cultivation of varieties of Cannabis sativa L. is allowed provided that they are registered in the EU ‘Common Catalogue of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Species’ and that the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content does not exceed 0.2 percent‘.

Some products derived
from the Cannabis sativa plant or plant parts such as seeds, seed oil, hemp seed meal, and defatted hemp seeds have a history of consumption in the EU and therefore are not new. Other specific national regulations may restrict the placing on the market of this product as a food or food ingredient in some member states. Therefore, it is recommended to check with the relevant national authorities.’

The European Commission is thus definitively failing in its role of guarantor of uniformity of technical rules concerning the production and marketing of products in the Internal Market. Exposing agricultural and processing companies, mostly SMEs and micro-enterprises, to the risk of being challenged on agricultural and food commodities legitimately placed on the European market, in compliance with common rules. So much for the principle of free movement of goods, the first pillar of the Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union. (2)

CBD, ‘
Novel food
in Europe

CBD (cannabidiol) and extracts from industrial hemp or other plants that contain cannabinoids are included in the European ‘Novel Food‘ register. In the absence of a demonstrated history of their consumption, in foods or dietary supplements, prior to 25.5.97 (and subject to any evidence to the contrary). This applies both to extracts sold as is and to any other product where they are included (e.g., titrated CBD extracts in hemp seed oil). Cannabinoids obtained by chemical synthesis also qualify as ‘novel foods,’ as is obvious.

Therefore, the sale of CBD as a food or ingredient (of foods and supplements) must come prior to its approval as a ‘Novel Food,’ by the European Commission. To this end, stakeholders-who may also coordinate and share commitments, in view of the common goal-will need to demonstrate the safety and benefits associated with taking CBD, through selection of the most relevant scientific studies.

The substance, extraction process(es) and purity requirements, and toxicological profiles should then be identified. On this basis, propose the conditions of use (as an ingredient in dietary supplements and/or commonly used foods) for the purpose of safe consumption, any limitations of use and warnings, consumer information. And prepare a technical and scientific dossier for submission to Efsa.

The European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), meanwhile, is working on a scientific opinion regarding some purified CBD extracts as ‘Novel Food‘. As part of its routine food safety risk assessment activities that must precede the placing of novel foods on the market. Therefore, new enlightenment is awaited.

CBD and hemp oil in cosmetics, European Commission alt.

The Europeancosmeticsdatabase, in turn, has undergone a drastic restriction on the use of hemp derivatives in recent months. (3) The European Commission has decided to exclude ‘cannabidiol, derived from extract or tincture or resin of cannabis‘ and ‘cannabis sativa seed oil‘ from the register of allowed cosmetic ingredients, recalling the UN Convention on ‘narcotic drugs.

The gesture of ‘diligent’ European Commission officials who suddenly – 58 years after the adoption of the UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs (30.1961) – excluded CBD from cosmetics stinks. All the more so because cannabidiol is not subject to any limitation, in the Convention referred to. Because CBD has no psychotropic effect, neuroprotective rather.

Why then? To what interest do the diligent officials of the European Commission, DG Grow, Unit D4 respond? Not to those of consumers, nor certainly to those of farmers who grow hemp in the EU, nor to the many companies in Europe that process it. To ‘Big Pharma,’ more likely. Because #canapabuona is good for real, a treasure for our fields and organisms, a superfood with interesting properties in terms of health benefits as well. The pharmaceutical plutocrats therefore want to assume a monopoly on every high-margin application. And officials render public service to their private interests.

Hemp oil

from the seeds of

Cannabis Sativa L

. reduced THC content, moreover, is recognized by the European Commission (DG Santé, Unit E2) itself as a traditional food, not even ‘Novel Food‘. And it is therefore excluded, under the ‘

General Food Law

‘, its inclusion among the narcotic and psychotropic substances referred to in the respective UN conventions. (4)

Short-circuit pending clarification, immediate correction (by deleting the unjustifiably placed limit on the use of CBD and hemp oil in cosmetics) and accountability.

Dario Dongo



(1) Effective date of the first reg. EC 258/97

, ‘

On new food products and ingredients’

. Regulation repealed by the following reg. EU 2015/2283. The European database is available at

(2) Cf. Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), Article 28

(3) V. Cosing DB, entries ‘cannabis sativa L‘ e ‘cannabidiol‘, on

(4) See reg. EC 178/02, art.2.3.d

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.