UK study shows advertising overstates CBD levels in 4 product categories

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CBD products in the UK carry less of the hemp-derived compound than advertised, according to research that looked at four product categories.

The study, by researchers from Loughborough University and horticulture specialist Bridge Farm Group, was published last month in the Journal of Cannabis Research, a scientific journal of Berlin-based Springer Nature.

The range of deviation from advertised CBD concentrations differed among product types but was not related to product price, the study showed. The authors said the research embraced a wider range of products than previous similar studies in the UK: 13 tinctures, 28 oils, 10 e-liquids, and 11 drinks, all of which were purchased online in the UK.

Misleading advertising

Few products in the recent study were found to have CBD concentrations within 10% of the levels advertised, with most exhibiting less than the amounts stated on the labels. Only 5 of 63 products contained concentrations within 10% of that advertised, the research showed. CBD oils deviated less than tinctures, e-liquids and drinks.

“These findings may be indicative of poor manufacturing standards, or that CBD undergoes degradation in consumer products,” the study observes. “(The study) reinforces concerns over the quality of CBD-containing consumer products and may highlight the need for improved regulation of such products.”

Better standards needed

The study also observes that CBD in e-liquids can degrade 15–20% over 30 days when exposed to natural light or constant 37°C temperatures, and said CBD appears to be less stable when dissolved in water compared to oils.

“The over-labeling of CBD concentrations within UK products highlights the need for improved product standards, which may necessitate clearer legislative guidance on acceptable tolerance limits for advertised CBD concentrations,” according to the study.

CBD review ongoing

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) is in the process of sorting out applications for roughly 12,000 individual CBD products as it works to clarify a flourishing gray market that has seen retail outlets flooded with the products over the past several years – and raising the kind of quality and safety concerns underscored in the Loughborough University study.

FSA has now advanced a total 5,342 CBD products to the second stage of its three-stage approval process for new (or “novel”) foods.

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