Packaging of CBD-infused products needs to become standardized.
By Josh Epstein
Two years ago, few people knew what CBD was. Then the 2018 Farm Bill passed and now it’s everywhere. Want it in your coffee? You can find that. What about your face cream? You got it. Despite a regulatory minefield, demand is on the rise and many companies are producing or developing products containing the compound. But there’s still much work to be done to make CBD a legitimate and legal food ingredient while building public confidence.
Reports from across the United States show that some of the CBD found on store shelves does not contain what is listed on the label. Some products contain more or less CBD than claimed, some contain high levels of pesticides, heavy metals or solvents, and others make illegal claims about the compound’s ability to treat medical conditions.
The FDA is currently working on creating regulatory guidelines for hemp and hemp-derived products. The agency has issued warnings to companies making health claims and has made it very clear that regulators will take swift action to prevent companies from making unfounded claims.
We’re pleased to see the FDA act on public health. By so doing, they help those of us trying to legitimize the industry avoid unfair competition from unscrupulous companies that put their business goals before the wellbeing of the consumer. Nevertheless, CBD product manufacturers still have a lot to do to ensure that the growth we’ve all been promised can actually be achieved.
Be Clear About What’s in the Bottle
One of the core complaints about the CBD industry is that there is no standardization. Even when companies are honest and transparent about what they put in products; it can be hard for consumers to understand what they are about to put in their mouths.
The simplest example of this relates to dosage. Over-the-counter medicines are labeled with information about the type and quantity of the active ingredient in each pill. My bottle of aspirin says very clearly that it contains 100 tablets, each delivering 325mg of acetylsalicylic acid. I know how much I’m taking when I have a headache. For supplements we see the same rigor around labeling. Each bottle of vitamin C tells consumers exactly how much is in each pill.
Yet, the bottle of broad-spectrum hemp extract I find at my local food store or pharmacy – even if the labeling is accurate and the lab testing extensive – may not be so clear. Often, the bottle will be labeled with the full amount of CBD contained in the package. So, the 30ml bottle will say it contains 750mg of CBD, leaving consumers to do the math to figure out how much CBD they’d be ingesting if they took one drop, or one dropper full. Other companies’ products are labeled to make dosage clearer, but there is industry standard that gives consumers clear information they can use to make choices.
There’s still insufficient science to label a CBD product with a recommended dosage. But what if the industry came together to standardize its approach? Wouldn’t it help navigate the complex array of products available so consumers can determine what works for them?
As a baseline, though, we need transparency. We need to know that when companies sell products, they’re clear about what those products contain in a way that consumers can understand. And we need to know – with certainty – that hemp-derived ingredients meet the same standards for purity and manufacturing quality as the products they’re put into.
Working with Regulators
Without clear guidance and smart regulation, the market for hemp-derived products will not be able to achieve consumer confidence or the growth the industry has promised.
So far, the FDA has focused on policing claims while it works through difficult questions about how to create a legal pathway for CBD to enter the food supply. States have begun issuing their own rules and regulations too, leaving companies and consumers even more confused. Federal regulation is needed. As regulators create rules and responsible players in the industry work to adhere to them, confusion will ease. But as an industry, we have to ensure that we build public trust by being open and honest about our products and the processes we use to create them.
Josh Epstein is the CEO of Socati Corp, a leading manufacturer of broad-spectrum hemp extract as ingredients for the food, beverage and cosmetic industries. Prior to Socati, Epstein was the president and COO of Nuuvera Corp., an international cannabis company listed on the TSX–V which sold to Aphria Inc. for $826 million in March 2018.