Keith Nunes 2019KANSAS CITY — The Food and Drug Administration’s conflicting position on the regulation of cannabidiols (CBD) is creating confusion in the marketplace. At the same time the agency says it needs more information to determine whether the ingredient merits generally recognized as safe status, the FDA is allowing some food and beverages featuring the ingredient to be sold. At best, this position is misleading to consumers, and at worst it may lead to harm.

Complicating the situation is some states allow the sale of food and beverages formulated with CBD under certain conditions. But products are being sold online, potentially entering interstate commerce and creating an unregulated market.

A preliminary study done by the FDA found some products containing CBD were mislabeled, containing either significantly more or less CBD than claimed. This finding is of great concern given CBD is a functional ingredient for consumers seeking a benefit.

Nearly a quarter of food products formulated with CBD tested by the agency did not meet their label claims, according to a report sent to the House Appropriations Committee obtained by Hemp Industry Daily. The numbers came from a sampling study of the CBD marketplace, which only included products available online.

The FDA randomly tested 200 tinctures, oils, capsules, edibles, drinks and pet products containing CBD. Nearly half were found to contain THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.

Of the 20 food and beverage products that listed a specific amount of CBD on the label, 5 contained less than 80% of the amount indicated, and 6 contained more than 120% of the amount indicated. Eight food products were found to contain THC.

Betsy Booren, PhD, senior vice president of regulatory and technical affairs at the Consumer Brands Association, said the FDA should do more to regulate the CBD marketplace following disclosure of the report in July.

“The FDA’s recent report on the labeling accuracy of CBD products further affirms the need for federal regulatory clarity,” she said. “Allowing bad actors to continue to put products on the market, unchecked, is a threat to consumer safety everywhere.”

The FDA’s concern about the negative health effects of CBD is well founded. Issues of concern include how the ingredient may interact with medications consumers take; what may happen to those who consume the ingredient for a sustained period of time; how different methods of consumption may affect intake; and levels of consumption that may trigger risks associated with CBD.

Of additional concern is the science of cannabinoids is outpacing the regulatory authorities’ efforts to keep up. While the agency focuses on answering some of the most basic questions around the health effects of CBD, researchers are working to learn more about lesser known cannabinoids like CBG, CBN and CBC. CBG has been linked to improved cognitive function, CBN may aid in relaxation, and work continues to understand the potential effects of CBC.

The promise of CBD as a food and beverage ingredient may be significant, but product development and consumer usage must be guided by science. Those rushing ahead of the science may tarnish the ingredient’s near-term potential.