FDA says that CBD quantity on product packaging is misleading


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is authorized by Congress to safeguard public health through the inspection/testing, approval and safety standard-setting of chemicals, cosmetics, drugs, foods, food additives, drugs and medical devices, has dropped a bomb on cannabis consumers — testing on products containing the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol) are usually not as abundant as they claim to be.

News regarding the mislabeling of CBD products has surfaced quite a lot over the last few years and particularly so, in regards to hemp-derived CBD. Since the hemp plant was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, the market has become saturated with unlicensed sellers who fail to test their products for accuracy.

According to the FDA – which highlighted its findings in a recent letter to Congress – most CBD-infused products contain significantly less than what is featured on the label. What’s more, the Agency even claims that some products have returned positive tests for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) — a psychoactive cannabis compound renowned for making consumers feel “high”.

Out of a total of 102 CBD-enriched products that were tested by the FDA this year, a mere 18 contained 80 percent of what was indicated on the packaging. An additional 46 products contained 20 percent of the advertised amount, whereas 38 products contained in excess of 120 percent of the CBD labeled on the bottle/packet.

FDA CBD product testing: Agency tested 147 products

A total of 147 CBD products – or products that at least claimed to contain the cannabis-derived compound – were tested by the FDA. Of that amount, 138 contained some level of CBD and 72 contained the psychoactive compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). However, it is important to note that the THC content was low and likely would not have caused the consumer to experience any mind-altering effects.

A range of randomly chosen suppliers were selected for the FDA’s CBD product-testing mission. Included in the chosen list of suppliers were firms that had previously received FDA warning letters for making false health claims about the non-psychotropic cannabinoid, trade journal advertisers and industry event participants.

Those CBD-containing products – which came from a limited sample size – fell into the following categories:

  • Capsules
  • Drinks
  • Edibles
  • Oils
  • Pet products
  • Tinctures

In spite of the fact that the findings could not be used to draw up an absolute conclusion, the Agency affirms that the outcome “supports the need for” long-term research. The FDA went on to say that it “recognizes the significant public interest in CBD products. However, there are many questions about the characteristics of currently marketed CBD products.”

FDA CBD product testing: Agency urged by Congress to improve regulation 

Although FDA CBD product testing tells us that manufacturers need to analyze the contents of their goods better prior to distributing them among consumers, the fact that the sample size was limited means that the findings aren’t precise for all products. Nonetheless, something good has come from the FDA’s report — more research is now likely to ensue. 

It just so happens that the FDA’s findings emerged during the same week that House members of Congress pushed for the FDA to better regulate the CBD industry. House members say that the Agency ought to continue in its efforts to “prioritize consumer-safety through application of the law.”

“[CBD products] continue to pose potential health and safety risks to consumers through unsubstantiated and misleading claims such as treating a wide-range of life-threatening diseases and conditions,” explained the House members. Now, the FDA plans on utilizing a $5 million budget from a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to continue reviewing CBD products for the 2020-21 budget year. However, this budget will not be confirmed until it is given the green light by the full Congress.