Opinion: The CBD industry's "Wild West" needs FDA to be its sheriff

Published: 9-Dec-2019

Neil Butterfield of Mineralife Nutraceuticals on why a set of stringent quality and purity policies are needed in the CBD marketplace

In a recent, highly publicised warning letter to consumers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced to the public that it is, in fact, keeping an eye on the booming cannabidiol (CBD) market.

The same day, it issued warnings to 15 CBD retailers around the country that their marketing practices (making unfounded claims about what CBD can do or "cure," adding CBD to food, and advertising CBD as a nutritional supplement) violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

While I fear the letter to consumers contains some scare tactics that could discourage people from trying products that give hope to so many, I applaud the FDA for taking long-overdue steps to begin to address the "Wild West" that is the current CBD industry: a rush of entrepreneurs seeking to join the emerging market with little to no oversight to ensure public trust and safety.

In fact, I hope the FDA will move quickly to embrace existing regulations that oversee companies like mine.

We see CBD products for sale virtually everywhere, and many customers who use them to treat anxiety, pain and other ailments swear by their effectiveness. But there are still no federal guidelines to ensure these products are produced safely or deliver the health benefits customers are promised.

Existing guidelines issued from state to state are wildly inconsistent in regard to purity, concentration levels and manufacturing practices.

The FDA can take this burden off state agencies and ensure consumer safety by regulating the manufacturing, packaging and labelling of CBD products as closely as it does dietary supplements. Some of these important guidelines include:

  • Standardising ingredient quality and potency. This issue has plagued the CBD industry from day one, with products containing either entirely too much, or far too little CBD, affecting the efficacy and increasing the likelihood of consumer misguidance.
  • Requiring manufacturing and batch records. This practice is vital for consumer safety, ensuring each ingredient and component within each product can be tracked, especially in the event customers receive a contaminated product.
  • Demanding accurate labelling. Guidelines in place for nutritional supplements prohibit companies from making unproven claims about curing or treating ailments and require accurate information on ingredient quantity. Such a rule for CBD products would help guarantee customers aren't lured by untested promises and allow them to choose which combinations of ingredients they prefer.

While there are companies cashing in on the CBD boom that are motivated only by profit, to be sure, I truly believe most manufacturers are sincere and want to deliver better health to their customers. But pure intentions do not ensure a pure product.

Quality control protocols should go beyond sterile facilities and hygiene requirements

Even companies desiring to create wholesome CBD goods may not have the know-how or the means to do so and should rightly be filtered out of the business if they can't meet standards that ensure safety and reliability.

Of the many protocols Mineralife takes to maintain integrity, the two most important are testing and quality control. Our labs test every raw good for contaminants, such as heavy metals, pesticides and microbial, before formulating a product. After production, we test the final batch for potency and to ensure no contaminants were introduced during manufacturing.

Additionally, quality control protocols should go beyond sterile facilities and hygiene requirements.

All our CBD products are assigned lot numbers and listed in batch records that allow the tracking of every ingredient and every piece of equipment used in the manufacturing process.

The government has been regulating the supplement industry for over 25 years, so it's common for manufacturers to utilise Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) such as these. It's high time the FDA applies the same standards to CBDs, to drive the unqualified (and the unscrupulous) companies in our industry out of Dodge.

About the author

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Butterfield studied Nutritional Therapy at Thames Valley University in London, England, and founded Mineralife in 2005 as a nutritional supplement company. After testing several brands of CBD products from manufacturers around Colorado, and finding widely disparate levels of purity, Butterfield began testing and white labelling CBD products for 28 CBD producers to ensure consistency, quality and integrity.

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