There’s a phenomenon happening today that is cause for concern for consumers – particularly those hoping to mitigate health conditions or simply lead a healthier lifestyle. It’s the prevalence of untested, unregulated CBD products being touted as the “cure all” for many things that ail us. And unregulated CBD can be found everywhere -- drug stores, mall kiosks, sports stores, health food markets, gas stations, supermarkets, and at online retailers.
Consumers have come to expect the products they are buying and consuming are safe thanks to the involvement of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the preeminent expert in protecting public health that sets the gold standard. It’s reassuring when products earn the FDA’s stamp of approval. FDA-approved products meet high standards of quality, safety, consistency, and have been scientifically proven to do what they say they will do.
However, CBD products have yet to earn this approval, and unfortunately there are many companies out there trying to mislead consumers with false claims.
The truth is the FDA announced it could not confirm CBD to be generally regarded as safe for use in human or animal foods and beverages in 2019. At the very least, the food and beverage products we purchase should be considered safe, and best-case scenario is they will have gone through the trusted FDA review process to justify their therapeutic claims.
The FDA process includes rigorous testing, years of analysis, considerable research and development resources, and scientific validation. Only then does the FDA begin its meticulous scrutiny to determine whether a product is safe and effective enough to go to market. Manufacturers that operate in this regulated approval process spend an average of $2.6 billion to develop a new FDA-approved medicine – often spanning more than 12 to 15 years. There are invaluable patient clinical trials and other required testing and data analysis that serve a critical role in the FDA’s review of products to determine safety and legitimacy.
Yet, the vast majority of CBD consumer products forego this FDA review process, ultimately avoiding critical investment, study, and testing. Instead, they use “research for marketing purposes” and appear to be leveraging partnerships with universities and research companies to market products to trusting consumers, all while avoiding the FDA process.
These tactics mislead consumers into believing the products have gone through rigorous testing practices with involvement from brand name, legitimate and respected universities and researchers. Their goal is to circumvent the FDA process while still encouraging consumers to view these products as safe to use and effective at addressing certain medical needs and health conditions.
University studies are very valuable, but when it comes to consumer product labelling, dosage, use with other medications and so on, these studies cannot replace traditional, proven methods of bringing products to market. Some CBD companies provide their products to academic institutions with the intention that the studies will be funded by the National Institutes of Health or published in peer-reviewed journals. Then, the companies use the limited data from such studies – some even leverage a mere announcement of a study – to promote their products for medical purposes.
This phenomenon increases risks to consumers and drags reputable universities into unconventional and questionable marketing tactics, all while putting Americans at risk. When it comes to CBD product research, it should be done thoroughly, with consumers at the forefront, not company profit. It’s a matter of health and wellness.