26 August 2022

Mislabeled CBD Products

Welcome back. If you use or are considering using cannabidiol (CBD) products, be aware that two recent studies found significant evidence of inaccurate and misleading labeling. Before jumping into those studies, I’ll borrow some background from an earlier blog post (see Hemp and CBD Revisited).

CBD Background
CBD is one of many cannabinoids found in Cannabis sativa L., a plant better known as marijuana or hemp. The other cannabinoid of interest here is the psychoactive compound associated with marijuana highs, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although marijuana and hemp are both cannabis plants, they differ in the concentration of THC, marijuana having much higher amounts.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill) legalized CBD at the federal level from hemp having THC less than 0.3%. CBD soon became widely available.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expressed concern that people may mistakenly believe CBD “can’t hurt.” The agency, which relies on others to conduct the research and submit data in an application for product approval, has approved only one CBD product--a prescription drug for two forms of epilepsy. The FDA has not evaluated unapproved CBD products.

Testing CBD Products

CBD Oil Products--In one study to assess the accuracy of CBD product labels, researchers with the University of Kentucky College of Medicine analyzed the CBD content of 80 CBD oil products of 51 national and local brands. (They also tested the FDA-approved CBD product for control.)

CBD oil product (photo from www.veteranscbdoil.com/cbd-oil-benefits/uses-for-cbd-oil).
Forty-four of the products were purchased from 21 online retailers, 36 from 9 retailers in Central Kentucky.

They analyzed CBD content by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS).

CBD Topical Products--In the second study, a team of researchers, led by investigators with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, tested 105 topical CBD products (lotions, creams, patches) to assess the CBD and THC content, label accuracy, and therapeutic and nontherapeutic claims.

CBD topical cream product (photo from www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/cbd-beauty-products.html).
Sixty products from 39 companies were purchased online; 45 products from 29 companies were purchased from 7 retailers in the Baltimore, Md. area.

They analyzed CBD and THC contents by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.

Results of Testing
Both studies considered the products to be accurately labeled for CBD if the measured and labeled amounts of CBD were within 10% and inaccurately labeled if the amounts differed by more than 10%.

CBD Oil Products--Of the 80 oil products tested, 54% were accurately labeled, 31% contained more than 10% more CBD than advertised (averaged 121% of label claim), and 15% contained more than 10% less CBD than advertised (averaged 61% of label claim).

Percentage deviation between measured and labeled amount of CBD in 80 commercially available CBD oil products (from jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-022-00140-1).
CBD Topical Products--A total amount of CBD was listed on the label of 89 of the 105 topical products. Of these, 24% were accurately labeled, 58% contained more than 10% more CBD than advertised, and 18% contained more than 10% less CBD than advertised.

Percentage deviation between measured and labeled amount of online topical CBD products that included an amount of CBD on the label (from jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2794440).
THC was detected in 35% of the 105 products; all contained less than 0.3%. Of the THC-containing products, 51% did not mention THC on the label, 11% were labeled THC-free and 38% indicated they contained less than 0.3% THC.

Of the 105 products, 28% made therapeutic claims, mostly about pain or inflammation, 14% made cosmetic claims (e.g., alleviate wrinkles or improve skin), 47% stated they were not FDA approved, and the remainder made no reference to the FDA.

Wrap Up
The variability in chemical content and labeling of CBD products poses safety risks and suggests the need for improved regulatory oversight to ensure quality assurance, deter misleading claims and prevent unwanted drug effects.

This is especially true given that consumers are using CBD products for an increasing range of conditions, often without medical guidance. Thanks for stopping by.

Study of label accuracy of CBD oil products in Journal of Cannabis Research: jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-022-00140-1
Study of label accuracy of CBD topical products in JAMA Network Open: jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2794440
Article on CBD topical products study on EurekAlert! website: www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/959276

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