One of Britain's biggest health chains is selling illegal cannabis oil, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
High-street favourite Holland & Barrett stocks a brand of oil that contains more than four times the legal limit of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
Manufactured in Holland, Jacob Hooy oil is reportedly the best-selling cannabidiol, or CBD oil, product in Britain.
CBD products have surged in popularity and are now taken by more than six million Britons, attracted by claims that they help with conditions such as skin complaints, depression and insomnia.
On its website, Holland & Barrett, which has 800 stores across Britain, says the oil is 'non-psychoactive and the content of THC is tested on every batch to meet specification requirements of less than 0.05 per cent'.
But the Jacob Hooy website says a 10ml bottle of its CBD oil contains 4.4 milligrams of THC. Under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, the legal limit of THC in any one product is 1mg.
Last night, Holland & Barrett, which sells the oil for £19.99 but is offering a Buy One, Get One For Half Price deal on its website, said it was satisfied that it was 'lawfully marketing these products'.
This newspaper has seen results from tests on a bottle of Jacob Hooy CBD bought from a branch of Holland & Barrett that showed levels of 12.4mg of THC – more than 12 times the legal limit.
The tests were conducted by Fera Science, a laboratory part-owned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Fera Science works for several Government departments.
Analysis of 31 brands of CBD oil sold in stores and online found ten had THC levels above the legal limit, including one with almost 24mg of THC.
Experts say levels above 10mg can have an adverse effect on cognitive functions.
The revelations will reignite concerns about the safety of products sold in the ever-growing and lucrative CBD market and the ability of regulators to enforce rules.
The CBD industry is overseen by a variety of different Government departments, but critics say this has caused confusion.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is the main regulator, but the Home Office is responsible if products contain controlled substances such as THC.
Another watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, can intervene if CBD products make medicinal claims.
Manufacturers of CBD products are required by the FSA to prove they are safe.
However, the FSA last night admitted that no CBD products in the UK market have been authorised but declined to say why, as a result, it was not pulling products off the shelves.
Tory MP Craig MacKinlay, the chairman of an all-party parliamentary group exploring the dangers of cannabis, said: 'A limit has been set for a reason and the thought that big, respected health food companies are exceeding these limits is not only a worry, it's making our entire cannabis policy a laughing stock.'
Rebecca Sudworth, director of policy at the FSA, said: 'The FSA has persistently made clear to the CBD industry that they need to apply for authorisation.
'If we don't see compliance soon we will take further action. If any evidence is found to suggest CBD is harmful, it will be removed from shelves immediately.'
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.