Trending but Illegal? FDA Hearings on CBD-Infused Foods

March 20, 2019
Trending but Illegal? FDA Hearings on CBD-Infused Foods

CBD, the non-psychoactive compound derived from cannabis plants, was dubbed the top culinary trend of 2019 in a recent survey of chefs conducted by the National Restaurant Association.

CBD-infused food and beverages ranging from brownies to lattes to fruity teas are all the rage.  Proponents tout benefits such as reduced anxiety, lessened pain, and fewer seizures, as well as other calming benefits for the body.

Last year’s legalization of the industrial production of hemp opened the door for increased supply, but the FDA has not yet cleared the way for the use of CBD in food and beverages.  Meanwhile, a complex web of state and local laws confuse hemp farmers and food and beverage manufacturers alike.

The FDA will begin the public hearing process in April, which is viewed as the first step in creating rules for CBD’s legal use in the food and beverage industry.  Many businesses, however, are already illegally selling products to eager consumers.

Video Spotlight: CBD-infused foods become rising trend in 2019

This post is based on the SmartBrief article, Recent crackdowns muddy the waters around CBD in food and beverages, by Tricia Contreras, March 4, 2019; the CNBC article, FDA plans first public hearings on legalizing CBD foods in April, by Angelica LaVito, February 27, 2019; and the YouTube video, CBD-infused foods become rising trend in 2019 by The Now, January 23, 2019. Image source: Ingram Publishing/SuperStock

Discussion Questions:

1. What legal/ethical concerns surround the sale of CBD infused foods and beverages?

Guidance: Last December, Congress legalized hemp products, including CBD. But the FDA still has to make rules about the use of these products in food and beverages.  The sale of CBD-infused foods, drinks, and dietary supplements has not yet been approved by the FDA.  Nevertheless, many businesses are quickly jumping on board the CBD train, which is already a half-billion-dollar a year industry.

Federal, state, and local laws often vary greatly where CBD is concerned, and it can be very complex for businesses that wish to enter this field.  While some assert that the benefits are many and the mind-altering THC aspects are not present, others question the safety of the products that are being sold in a largely unregulated environment.  Businesses that choose to offer foods or beverages containing the controversial ingredient may find themselves challenged by lawsuits in the future if product quality is not up to par and customers experience adverse side effects.

Even California, which has legalized the sale of marijuana, only allows the sale of CBD-infused products made from marijuana at licensed cannabis dispensaries.  Products made with CBD extracted from hemp are still barred from sale at California smoke shops.

2. What quality issues surround the use of CBD in the food and beverage industry?

Guidance: Proponents of the use of CBD in food suggest that restaurants or food manufacturers should always purchase from certified and trusted suppliers that use third-party testing by independent labs to verify quality and safety.  Companies are also advised to keep certificates of analysis that show how many milligrams of CBD are in each product.  It is not uncommon for uncertified CBD products to contain unknown additives or contaminants, and for these suppliers to use less rigor and caution with processing techniques, yielding CBD products that may be unsafe for consumers.


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