After one US study revealed that just under 70% of CBD products purchased online included inaccurate information on their labels, a UK-based group decided to test similar products in the UK. The cannabis-advocacy group leading the research discovered identical results. Their findings suggest more than 60% of CBD products include labelling inaccuracies.

The research uncovered that a mere 38% of the CBD products tested on the UK market were within 10% of their label’s supposed CBD content. A more worrying discovery was that almost 50% of products tested included more than the controlled amount of CBD.

The current CBD market in the UK is estimated to be worth £400 million but an exponential increase is predicted with figures estimated around £1.7 billion within the next five years. To put this in perspective, the UK CBD market is larger than both the Vitamin C and D markets combined.

In an industry so valuable and forecasted to grow significantly, can it afford to be so inaccurate with its labelling?

The Study’s Key Findings

The study was conducted in 2019 by researchers at the Centre for Medical Cannabis. They chose 30 CBD products available commercially from the high street and online. CBD testing was performed by Phytovista Laboratories.

The overarching aim of the study was to investigate the quality of these CBD products by testing the CBD content and any other substances that are subject to monitoring.

Overall, the findings indicated the quality and legality of the CBD products varied.

False CBD Advertising

Over 60% of the CBD products tested did not contain an amount of CBD reflected in their labelling, including eight products which had a higher CBD content. Moreover, just under 40% of products included less than 50% of the amount of CBD they claimed to have. Interestingly, one product purchased from the high street was without CBD entirely.

Illegal Content

Around half of the products were found to contain amounts of CBN and THC above the legal threshold. In the UK, these are both controlled substances and are therefore illegal CBD products. Thus, misleading consumers and putting them at risk.

Dangerous Metals and Alcohol

Another eye-opening discovery was that seven CBD products were found to include dichloromethane, while one of those contained a dangerous level of cyclohexane. One product even contained so much ethanol that it should be classed as an alcoholic drink.

Why Is Mislabelling So Rife in CBD Products?

Lacking regulations

The bottom line is that there is a lack of regulations in the UK regarding CBD products. This has enabled such disparity and reduced quality, as uncovered in the study. At present, no laws exist that force manufacturers to label them accurately or to verify the information on labels.

The copy-and-paste regulations of current only ask that manufacturers to list their own details, the CBD content and ingredients used. No medical claims are required which means inaccuracies of their labels are set to continue until regulations are implemented.

At the same time, there is a glaring absence in the governance of CBD testing and which methods to use. The most responsible CBD companies will be better off working with accomplished laboratories, such as the one involved in the study, to ensure robust testing and be able to declare those tests on packaging.

Supply Chain Issues

The CBD supply chain also poses problems for manufacturers, stockers and the final consumer. All the UK’s CBD products must be imported, which is suggested to not only be a burden but also reduces the reliability of the crop.

Considering industrial hemp usage and its eco-credentials, some believe the UK’s laws on growing hemp are outdated. Not to forget that hemp is more valuable than some of the best quality corn, and thus, the UK’s economy and farmers are missing an opportunity.

Morals and Ethics

When you combine a booming market with lacking regulations, it is unsurprising that some companies are willing to make false claims. Considering many of the consumers of CBD are attracted to it for therapeutic reasons, the sense of unethical practice is heightened.

The CBD purification processes can also help manufacturers save money. This is because CO2 extraction is effective but expensive, while opting for solvent extraction is much cheaper but results in leftover contaminants.

As part of the UK study, testing found that residue solvents were left behind in several products due to this cheaper cleaning process. The levels of solvents left behind exceeded EU limits in products to be consumed.

Why CBD Oil Testing Matters

Consumer Safety

CBD is regarded as a safe product, but when it is consumed without moderation and not in line with guidelines, it can cause headaches and even increase anxiety. This is one of the main reasons why providing accurate CBD content on labels is crucial for informed dosing.

Similarly, the content of allowable heavy metals and solvents within CBD products is set for health safety. The toxicity of heavy metals is significantly damaging to health and this reinforces the need for CBD oil testing.

Giving Consumers Confidence

The aforementioned study, as well as two other studies conducted by YouGov and Dynata, illustrate that consumers prioritise quality and purity. It is easy to conclude that UK consumers want reliable products.

Accurate labelling with recommended dosing advice based on health research, as well as British-grown products will affect decisions to purchase more than price alone.

Remaining Legal

Manufacturers need to also protect themselves from crossing the line into illegality. In the UK, THC – the cannabinoid from cannabis that results in psychoactive effects – is illegal and CBD products are only permitted to contain less than 0.2% of THC. Manufacturers must be aware of their THC content if they want to avoid consumer prosecution.

How to Make Your CBD Brand Stand Out?

Become a brand trusted by the consumer and demonstrate your commitment to quality: 

To produce a winning CBD brand that stands out in a saturated market, earn your consumers’ trust with a commitment to accuracy and quality:

·       Label your products accurately with the help of trusted methods and labs

·       Use your tests to provide safe dosing recommendations

·       Obtain and display your Certificate of CBD Analysis on your website – and commit to ethical practice

·       Walk in your customers’ shoes: what would make them choose you over your competitors?

Overall, remember that quality matters in CBD products.

About the author

Oli Phyto

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