And most CBD products didn’t contain the levels of the compound promised on the label.

By Mike Pomranz
July 10, 2020
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As CBD pops up in everything from cocktails to cookies, there is still much we don't know about the products that tout its benefits. New testing from the FDA found that almost half of randomly selected cannabidiol (CBD) products also tested positive for THC, the primary active compound for marijuana, which calls into question the accuracy the labeling of CBD products.

Late last year, the FDA was asked “to conduct a sampling study of the current Cannabidiol (CBD) marketplace to determine the extent to which products are mislabeled or adulterated,” according to the recently released report. For the sampling, the FDA generated a list of 500 CBD and hemp products sold online, with 147 eventually being analyzed for 11 cannabinoids, including CBD and THC.

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Of that group, only two products that claimed to contain CBD did not contain any CBD, a relatively high level of accuracy. (Seven products did not contain CBD, but also didn’t claim to contain CBD.) But the CBD levels were also tested, and, here, the accuracy was far more lax. Of the 102 products that listed a specific amount of CBD, less than half—45 percent—contained CBD within 20 percent of the amount indicated. Meanwhile, 18 percent contained less CBD while 37 percent contained more.

The research also teased out food and beverage products—“edible,” “beverage,” and “gummy” items as opposed to “tincture/oil,” “capsule/powder,” and “pet” ones. In general, these products tested in line with the overall results.

As for CBD’s more mischievous cousin, THC, the study found that 49 percent of the products tested (72 in total) contained THC in amounts greater than the limit of quantification (LOQ). And though the FDA’s LOQ does not appear to be specified, at least one product tested contained THC levels as high as 3.1 milligrams per serving—likely enough to have physical effects.

On the bright side, 133 products were also tested for the hazardous elements lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. Only one product was found to be a potential health concern, and even that product is still receiving additional evaluation. So beyond cannabinoids, the products appeared safe.

And overall, the FDA’s primary takeaway was that more testing is needed. “These preliminary data are from a limited sample size and cannot be used to draw conclusions about the marketplace and supports the need for the long-term study, which will capture multiple retail sources (on-line and brick and mortar) and a greater number of products,” the report concluded.

However, Betsy Booren—senior vice president, regulatory and technical affairs, for the Consumer Brands Association—said the scattershot results showed it was time for action to be taken.

“The FDA’s recent report on the labeling accuracy of cannabidiol (CBD) products further affirms the need for federal regulatory clarity,” she said in a statement. “Allowing bad actors to continue to put products on the market, unchecked, is a threat to consumer safety everywhere. The consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry applauds FDA’s efforts and urges Congress to provide more funding and resources to FDA to move quickly through this process."