Labeling Accuracy

Since the first CBD products began hitting the mass market several years ago, there have been questions about whether they actually contained the amount of cannabidiol listed on the packaging.

Numerous studies over the years have shown that many products fall well short of the listed CBD, and some even have no CBD at all.

Nick Mosely, CEO of Confidence Analytics, was recently approached to handle lab-testing for a segment on CBD for a Seattle-area NBC affiliate. Confidence Analytics tested 12 products for the news segment and found that five of those products had noticeably lower levels of CBD than what the labels suggested, including one that had just 33% of the listed CBD.

Mosely says the results weren’t that surprising. Confidence Analytics tests CBD products for manufacturers all across the country.

“Frequently, they are also sending in their competitors’ products that they think are not up to standards,” he says.

While most products are “fairly on target,” he says, “a good 30 to 50% of them need some improvement.”

About a year ago, Confidence Analytics handled the lab-testing for an investigative article by Leafly, in which 47 products were analyzed. Only 24 of the 47 products were within 20% of the labeled dosage. Confidence Analytics and Leafly found five products that contained essentially no CBD. The worst offender was the HempZilla vape pod that claimed 300 milligrams but tested at 0.8 milligrams.

The test results of CBD products at large, Mosely says, are noticeably less accurate than those within Washington’s state-regulated marijuana industry.

For example, he says, in the KING5 segment, two products came from state-licensed marijuana companies and a third came from a state-licensed marijuana company’s separate CBD line. All three of those products were “spot on,” he says.

“I think that does show that when there’s a robust regulatory structure in place, manufacturers are being held to more stringent quality controls and the labels tend to be more accurate.”

“One of the biggest issues is that there’s no regulatory control,” says Robert Portman, the CEO of CBD Validator, a web-based company that analyzes and ranks CBD oils on the market based on five statistical metrics.

Portman, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, says only about 22% of the CBD oil products in his database provide a certificate of analysis for CBD, pesticides and heavy metals, based on their own voluntary reporting. This should be a glaring red flag for consumers, but it might not be obvious for the shopper looking at rows and rows of similar products at a supermarket.

Mosely’s advice to consumers is to look for products coming from brands that appear reputable and buy them from retailers that are reputable.

“I think a common sense look at the space can identify the products that appear trustworthy and the ones that don’t,” he says. “Generally, the appearance is a good indicator. That’s been my experience.”

(But beware of clear, bottled beverages: “Bottled water is the worst,” Mosely says. “When it’s clear water, it generally doesn’t contain CBD.”)

Retailers looking to carry CBD products on their shelves have a legal and ethical obligation to do more than just judge products on appearance and should actually vet the products they’re supplying to consumers.

— Garrett Rudolph

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