As more and more states have been legalizing products derived from cannabis, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were keen to answer the question: How many of these product labels accurately report their content?

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According to a recent report submitted by the FDA to U.S. Congress, many CBD product labels appear to contain inaccuracies.

Across the United States, lawmakers have increasingly been legalizing products derived from cannabis, most often allowing their consumption for medical purposes, and in some cases, recreational use.

However, with increased legalization, specialists have raised concerns regarding potential risks, particularly those linked to the use of unregulated cannabis-derived products.

Such products can contain one or two of the main active compounds present in cannabis: cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

While both of these substances interact with the same receptors in the human body once ingested, they can produce different effects. While CBD is unlikely to lead to a “high,” THC is a psychoactive substance that can elicit this response.

So far, products containing CBD have not been consistently regulated. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been working to address this issue, to help protect consumer health.

The agency recently submitted a report to the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations and the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations.

This report surveyed products containing CBD. Its goal was to determine if product labels accurately portray their content of cannabis-derived substances.

The FDA tested 147 product samples claiming to contain CBD, which were marketed for human or pet use. They conducted these inspections between 2014–2019.

Initial laboratory tests took place between 2014–2018, during which the agency tested 78 products. The FDA selected goods for testing based on manufacturers or sellers that they did not consider to be credible.

Specifically, the agency examined products manufactured by companies known to:

  • make unsubstantiated health claims
  • sell products reported to cause adverse effects
  • sell products online
  • produce and sell products across several states.

Of the 78 products, 88% contained cannabinoids, though only 86% claimed to contain CBD. A large number of the goods analyzed also included THC or cannabinoids, which were undisclosed on the label.

In 2019, the FDA also tested 41 cosmetic products marketed as containing CBD. Of these, 14 showed a specific CBD concentration on labels. However, eight contained “less than 80% of the CBD amount indicated,” according to the report.

Only four of the 14 products contained “within 20% of the CBD amount” specified, and two products had more than 120% the amount of CBD listed.

The analysis further revealed that of the 41 cosmetics that contained CBD, 12 products also contained THC, though this substance was unspecified on their labels.

Furthermore, in 68 cosmetics that claimed to contain hemp oils, testing revealed that they “did not contain any measurable cannabinoids.”

The FDA also tested 31 products for potential contamination with toxic heavy metals, though found that none contained any dangerous concentrations of these substances. However, they consistently mislabeled their CBD and THC content.

Therefore, 10 of the 31 products did not specify how much CBD they contained. And in the 21 that did, only seven had a CBD concentration within 20% of the amount listed on their labels.

“Of the 10 products that did not indicate the amount of CBD included in the product, six contained CBD and four did not,” the report also specifies.

“In addition,” it adds, “15 of the 31 products (48%) contained THC.”

From the total sample of 147 products, 102 indicated a specific CBD content on their labels. Of these, the FDA investigators found that only 45% of goods “contained CBD within 20% of the amount indicated.” They also note that 49% contained THC or THCA, with no indication of this on their labels.

Though the sample size for this report is small, the FDA note that their work has only just begun, and they intend to extend their research to include more types of products.

“FDA has developed a sampling methodology to create a representative random sample of the current CBD product marketplace,” the report states.

Following this report, the FDA intend to assess CBD-containing products from a large range of goods, including conventional food and beverages, personal lubricants, tampons, and suppositories.

The agency expect to commence this study later in 2020.