NEW YORK >> For months, the top-selling item at Fat Cat Kitchen was a cookie packed with chocolate chunks, dusted with salt flakes and infused with the stylish cannabis derivative cannabidiol, or CBD.
But as of last week, customers won’t find the cookie on the Manhattan restaurant and bakery’s menu.
On Friday, a health inspector sealed up the restaurant’s supply of CBD-infused baked goods in a plastic bag and told Fat Cat Kitchen to stop selling them as part of a citywide embargo on food products containing CBD.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene confirmed today that it was ordering restaurants under its jurisdiction not to sell food products containing CBD.
In a statement, the health department said that New York City eateries were not “permitted to add anything to food or drink that is not approved as safe to eat.” That included CBD, which had not been “deemed safe as a food additive,” the department said. The crackdown was first reported by Eater.
CBD is a chemical compound in the cannabis plant that is closely related to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main component in marijuana. Unlike THC, however, CBD is not psychoactive — that is, it will not get consumers high.
In the past few years, CBD has become increasingly popular. It has been hailed as a kind of wonder-drug — a remedy for anxiety, pain, acne, inflammation and insomnia, among other ailments.
With its supposed benefits mounting (despite a relative dearth of strong scientific studies to back all of them up), CBD became an increasingly popular additive in consumer products. It showed up in topical oils, skin creams, and food and drink.
Whether the compound is legal has been a source of confusion. In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first CBD prescription drug to be sold in the United States. But the Drug Enforcement Administration has said CBD is illegal because it comes from cannabis, a banned Schedule 1 drug. And on its website, the FDA says products with CBD cannot be sold as dietary supplements or in food that crosses state lines.
New York City is not alone in addressing the use of CBD in food. In Maine, 1 of 10 U.S. states that has legalized marijuana for recreational use, state health officials recently ordered businesses to remove CBD-infused edibles from stores, The Portland Press Herald reported.
In Ohio, which has a medical marijuana program, local and state authorities have also been cracking down on businesses selling products with CBD, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
New York City health inspectors only began to police CBD-infused products in January, officials said. So far, the health department has asked five restaurants to stop selling food with CBD.
CBD-infused edibles and beverages have been popping up rapidly on menus in New York, where the compound is stirred into lattes and baked into pastries. In August, a bar and restaurant dedicated to CBD-laced cuisine opened in Queens.
Fat Cat Kitchen, which opened in the East Village in 2017, began selling its CBD products more than two months ago, the restaurant’s owner, C.J. Holm, said today. Its offerings included the top-selling cookie, as well as brownies, marshmallow treats and CBD-infused honey that could be added to drinks.
The menu additions were lucrative ones.
“My CBD stuff is absolutely the No. 1-selling revenue source in the store,” she said.
On Friday, as part of a routine inspection, two city health inspectors started asking Fat Cat Kitchen employees about its CBD products, Holm said.
The inspectors were vague about their intent, she said. They did not seem to understand what they wanted to know or why they wanted to know it.
Eventually, the health inspectors grabbed the restaurant’s CBD edibles, raw cookie dough and the CBD powder that Fat Cat Kitchen used for baking, and tossed them into a plastic bag, she said. They stapled it shut, told the restaurant that its CBD products were “embargoed” and left the bag at the restaurant.
Though health department officials had been to the restaurant on two previous occasions while it was selling CBD, last week’s visit was the first time they had asked about CBD, Holm said.
“It just seemed so random and arbitrary to me,” she said. “And it was really difficult getting answers as to what the exact issue is.”
Holm said she hoped the health department would change its policy. In the meantime, she was frustrated by what she viewed as poor communication around the issue and a general lack of clarity around the policy.
“Now, just out of the blue, they’re just going to randomly embargo restaurants’ products? I just don’t feel like it was done properly,” she said.