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To CBD or Not to CBD

You don’t have to look far today to see a growing presence of Cannabidiol (CBD) in our daily life. As a product testing consultancy, we have been approached by a variety of clients and potential clients regarding the ability to sensory test CBD. We are very familiar testing a variety of regulated products, including alcohol and pharmaceuticals, and the requirements that are associated with this type of research. Naturally, we are anxious to support our clients in understanding this new and emerging CBD product category.

Unfortunately, we are facing an interesting dilemma. The 2018 Farm Bill (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018) categorizes hemp as a legal agricultural commodity and removes hemp and its derivatives—including cannabinoids, such as CBD—from the definition of “marihuana” in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), provided the concentration of THC is not more than 0.3 percent. THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) is the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana. The assumption many companies made was that this opened the door for the sale of CBD products nationally. It was at this point we began to be contacted about testing food products that contained CBD.

We began to prepare for testing. There are already a wide variety of food and personal care products available that contain CBD or Hemp. A deeper look into this new category created more confusion. There are a variety of raw materials, various health claims, and still regulatory issues. Raw material differences are detailed below

  • Hemp seed oil is cold pressed from hemp seeds. It does not contain CBD or any phytocannabinoids.

  • CBD isolate is a purified CBD molecule. CBD isolate is white and powdery in its appearance. It does not contain other phytocannabinoids like full or broad spectrum.

  • Full Spectrum refers to cannabis-derived from the whole plant that contains CBD and other phytocannabinoids such as THC, CBN, THCA, CBC, and CBG.

  • Broad Spectrum contains all phytocannabinoids in the plant but does not contain any detectable amount of THC.

  • Nano CBD is a compound where the molecules of CBD are shrunk down to extremely small sizes (less than 100nm) and turned into a water-based form. This process allows the CBD to pass through skin much more easily and quickly than any oil-based form.

Possible Health Benefits

CBD has several claimed benefits including pain relief, reduction of anxiety and depression, anti-inflammatory, reduced cancer symptoms of nausea and vomiting, acne reduction, lowering of blood pressure, and a variety of other effects. However, the clinical studies supporting these claims are often in question due to a limited number of subjects, poor control, and lack of double-blinding.

To add to the confusion there is still a prohibition from the FDA for the use of hemp-based CBD in consumable products. It is currently illegal to put into interstate commerce a food to which CBD has been added or to market CBD as, or in, a dietary supplement. This is related to the fact that CBD is the active ingredient in Epidiolex, an FDA-approved prescription drug product to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy. As such CBD is regulated as a drug and cannot be used in food or supplements.

So, where does that leave product testing agencies like Sensory Spectrum? At this point, we are not willing to break the law and test “illegal” food products that contain CBD. We can, however, evaluate hemp products like hemp oil that do not contain CBD. Our expert panels are trained in a wide range of project formats including foods, beverages, personal care products, and pharmaceuticals. Once the regulations change, we are willing and ready to evaluate CBD containing foods oil-based form.


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