The Department of Health announced today that it is ordering all restaurants and bars in the city to stop selling CBD-infused products. Despite the fact that CBD is legal on a federal level, they argue that the FDA has not approved it as a food additive.

"Restaurants in New York City are not permitted to add anything to food or drink that is not approved as safe to eat," the DOH said in a statement to Gothamist. "The Health Department takes seriously its responsibility to protect New Yorkers' health. Until cannabidiol (CBD) is deemed safe as a food additive, the Department is ordering restaurants not to offer products containing CBD."

The Health Code requires any non-food item added to food be approved or generally recognized, among qualified experts, as safe under the conditions of its intended use. The DOH apparently does not consider CBD to be a food item unto itself, but rather an additive. The DOH did not respond to a question about who would be considered a "qualified expert" in order to have CBD approved.

The FDA considers "agency resources and the threat to the public health" when deciding whether or not to initiate an enforcement action about foods to which THC and CBD has been added. They add, "FDA also may consult with its federal and state partners in making decisions about whether to initiate a federal enforcement action."

The DOH apparently began embargoing CBD in city food products in January, and has already ordered at least five restaurants to stop using CBD products. One of those restaurants was Fat Cat Kitchen—co-owner CJ Holm tells Gothamist that during a routine inspection last Friday, inspectors "embargoed" about $1,000 worth of CBD edibles by placing the products in bags (they did not ask the restaurant to destroy or throw out the products).

Holm said they had only been selling CBD products for two and a half months, and she doesn't believe they were targeted for selling CBD by the inspectors. "The two inspectors weren't really informed. They asked to see the CBD, they asked to see a receipt—that's no big deal, that's normal—and they were actually surprised that we weren't using CBD oil. They were like, 'Well what is this?'" Holms said. "They seemed very confused. They had no information about CBD to begin with. So they're looking for and asking questions about things they don't understand."

Holm said the inspection left her confused, "with nothing but questions. They made statements that weren't true, they didn't explain what the issue was, they didn't take the CBD, they just put it in a plastic baggie."

"It was so random and arbitrary and unclear what we had done wrong," she continued. "I had to call the Department of Health three times to get someone on the phone who even knew what CBD was. One woman put me on hold, and then came back and said, 'Oh I just Googled it, now I know what CBD is!' You're taking away my CBD, and nobody even knows what it is!"

The rest of the restaurant industry is just becoming aware of this sudden change in policy. Ron Silver, chef and owner of Bubby’s, launched a line of CBD-infused items (sugar and syrups) last year called Azuca, which he has been selling at the restaurant. He told Gothamist: “The hemp-derived extract we serve at Bubby’s under the brand Azuca is domestically sourced from trusted partners before undergoing rigorous testing and thorough quality checks. We are confident in the safety of these products and are happy to work in conjunction with the DOH in order to establish sensible standards to ensure the wellbeing of CBD consumers—not only around New York City, but also the nation at large. The recently passed Farm Bill has many nuanced interpretations from the FDA, New York State and New York City. Our mission has always been to set the gold standard and be transparent in our approach."

CBD is one of more than 80 naturally occurring active compounds found in cannabis plants, but it lacks the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol, a.k.a. THC, the compound which gets people high. Last year, the increasing popularity of CBD led to numerous local restaurants and bars embracing the trend and incorporating CBD products into their food and drinks. That includes by Chloe, the chic vegan restaurant and sweets purveyor, who launched their own CBD-infused product line of sugary confections, and Adriaen Block, a full-on CBD-focused cocktail bar and restaurant in Astoria.

During an interview earlier today, Mayor Bill de Blasio noted that he hadn’t discussed the issue with the Department of Health but trusted them to take the lead: "The Department of Health is the gold standard for public health in this country and if they have a concern, I have a concern," de Blasio said. "I have not had this conversation with them directly but I think they are often at the cutting edge of finding problems and addressing them."