A variety of cannabidiol (CBD) products incorrectly stated their CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol content, in addition to making therapeutic and cosmetic claims without FDA approval.
A new study found significant evidence of inaccurate and misleading labeling of cannabidiol (CBD) content, according to research published in JAMA network opened.
Some of these over-the-counter products were found to contain amounts of delta-9-tetrahyrdocannabinol (THC), including products that were claimed to be THC-free.
“Misleading labels can lead people to use poorly regulated and expensive CBD products instead of FDA-approved products that have been determined to be safe and effective for a particular health condition,” said lead author Tory Spindle, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in a statement.
CBD and THC are well-known compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant. An important difference between the two is that THC can produce a psychoactive “high” effect, while CBD does not.
CBD products are popular and widely available to consumers. Products containing less than 0.3% THC are not considered federally illegal substances under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. This regulation makes it difficult for the FDA to address unapproved claims and mislabelling.
The study included 105 CBD products, including lotions, creams, and patches purchased online and at brick-and-mortar retail locations in Baltimore, Maryland in July and August 2020.
A technology called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry was used to identify the actual amount of CBD and THC in the products. Only 89 (85%) of the products tested stated the total amount of CBD in milligrams on the label.
Of these 89 products, only 21 (24%) were correctly labeled. There were 52 (58%) products containing more CBD than advertised and 16 (18%) containing less CBD than advertised.
The products in the store were found to contain 21% more CBD than advertised on average. Online products contain an average of 10% more CBD than advertised; however, the accuracy of CBD labels varied widely between products.
THC was found in 37 (35%) of the products. While all of these were within the legal limit of 0.3%, 4 (11%) were labeled “THC-free” and 14 (38%) stated they contained less than 0.3% THC. About half (51%) of the products did not list THC on the label.
The presence of THC can affect users of these products.
“Recent research has shown that people using CBD products containing even small amounts of THC may be able to test positive for cannabis using a conventional drug test,” explains Spindle.
While this has not been established for topical CBD products, the authors are currently studying it.
Researchers also found that some of the CBD products made claims that were not approved by the FDA. The FDA has approved only 1 prescription CBD product to treat seizures associated with rare epilepsy disorders and 2 prescription THC products for chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, and for appetite loss and weight loss associated with HIV/AIDS .
Of the total products, 29 (28%) made a therapeutic claim, most of which were related to pain and inflammation. Cosmetic or beauty claims, such as the ability to lighten wrinkles, were made by 15 (14%) products. Less than half, 47%, noted that they were not FDA-approved.
The remaining 53% of the products had no reference to the FDA on their labels.
“It’s important to note that the FDA has not approved any CBD products to treat any of the conditions advertised on the products we tested,” Spindle said.
These findings suggest a need for better regulation of CBD products and labeling, according to the study authors.
“The variability in chemical content and labeling found in our study highlights the need for better regulatory oversight of CBD products to ensure consumer safety,” said Ryan Vandrey, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns. Hopkins University School of Medicine in a statement.
The authors propose such regulations to ensure that CBD products meet established quality assurance standards so that consumers can make informed decisions about product selection and are not misled by unproven claims. Regardless of labels or claims, the authors caution that people should check with their healthcare providers before starting a CBD regimen.
Research shows that there is widespread mislabelling of CBD content for over-the-counter products. EurekAlert. news item. July 20, 2022. Accessed July 22, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/959276