Hemp is an incredibly complex plant. One of its myriad functions is to remediate soil by removing toxins. These toxins then remain in the hemp plant, though, where they can be unwittingly ingested.
That’s only one of the problems related to mislabeling that are rampant within the modern hemp industry. Shoppers understandably want to know what is in their CBD products, but since the federal government doesn’t compel them to, many CBD brands don’t provide genuine information.
According to recent Leafreport data, over half of CBD products remain mislabeled. Find out what that means and how to avoid mislabeled products in this guide.
Overview of the issue
CBD may seem mainstream now, but it still exists within an entirely unique legal and regulatory environment. Let’s summarize CBD’s regulatory status in bullet points:
- The 1971 Controlled Substances Act made CBD illegal since it is part of Cannabis sativa.
- The 2014 Farm Bill provided for legal CBD under very specific circumstances, inadvertently opening a legal loophole that founded the online CBD industry.
- The 2018 Farm Bill expanded on previous legislation to allow widespread hemp cultivation and commerce in the United States — provided that CBD products contain less than 0.3%.
- Federal law does not require that CBD products be tested before they reach the market.
- Individual brands can either choose to properly test their products or not, leading to serious quality control concerns.
The latest Leafreport data
Now, we’ll turn to Leafreport to provide more data on CBD product testing in the United States. According to a document entitled “CBD Market Report: Over Half of CBD Products Are Mislabeled¹,” CBD mislabeling remains rampant in the United States.
Out of the 221 products that Leafreport tested, only 40% actually contained the amount of CBD listed. Quite a few products also contained isolate CBD when they were listed as full-spectrum or otherwise contained a different type of CBD than what was listed on their labels.
Only 88 of the 221 CBD products tested earned an overall “A” grade for testing. 50 products (22%) earned a “B” grade, and 10% (21) earned a “C” grade.
What’s truly shocking, though, is the number of tested CBD products that utterly failed to match their stated potency. Leafreport discovered 62 products that were deserving of an “F” grade — 28%.
Let’s take a closer look at the most important findings Leafreport included:
- 60% of CBD products tested were at least 10% off from their stated potency
- The average CBD product was 25% off from its stated potency
- Beverages were the most egregiously labeled — only 18% listed correct potency, and two products did not actually contain any CBD
- 44% of products labeled as broad or full-spectrum actually contained isolate CBD
After providing the raw statistics, Leafreport turned to experts in the field for their opinions. One expert noted that, when it comes to CBD, “there is no reason for a consumer to purchase a product that has not been tested.” Another chimed in that the problem with CBD testing is “made worse by businesses that don’t follow basic aspects of quality control.” A third expert hoped to see “more accuracy and regulation around testing practices and product labeling” as the industry evolves.
Those who are in a position to know appear to agree that inaccurate labeling is one of the biggest safety and credibility concerns facing the CBD industry. Brands that want to succeed as CBD industry professionals would do well to place a heavy emphasis on proper transparency and testing.
Why cannabinoid product mislabeling matters
All too often in the CBD industry, there is a sense of unearned entitlement. Why should we have to prove to customers that our products are safe? We worked so hard to make them, after all.
Shoppers aren’t satisfied with a simple “trust us,” however. They’re used to the types of ironclad assurances issued by agencies like the FDA, confirming to consumers that substances are safe or desirable to use.
Since the FDA doesn’t opine on CBD product safety yet, it’s incumbent upon CBD producers to fill the assurance gap. It is the responsibility of CBD companies to make shoppers feel safe buying their products — it isn’t the responsibility of CBD users to test products for safety themselves.
The longer that cannabinoid products continue to be mislabeled, the more educated consumers will look down on the CBD industry as untrustworthy or unprofessional. If CBD producers take Leafreport’s results and use them to offer better transparency and labeling accuracy, they’ll both succeed personally and make the entire CBD industry look good at the same time.
Reliable products gain shopper trust
The CBD industry has endured considerable growing pains, but it has now gained nearly the same legitimacy as any other large natural health industry. Commanding the same degree of respect as melatonin or arnica, CBD is nonetheless hampered by a unique detractor — regulation, and testing.
Not only does a lack of proper testing lead to deceptive business practices, but it also keeps CBD producers from knowing enough about their products to ensure they provide reliable results. As a result, CBD products can sometimes disappoint shoppers when used multiple times over an extended period — batch quality can vary even if the same lab tests are provided for multiple batches.
Some savvy cannabinoid shoppers are coming to understand the importance of batch-specific testing, underlining how essential it has now become to modernize and transparentize the CBD industry. CBD has proved its lasting influence among the American people, but they’ll eventually be turned away in disgust if the industry doesn’t become accountable for shoddy labeling practices.
How to use mislabeling to your advantage
As shoppers become more aware of the dangers of mislabeled cannabinoid products, companies that consistently label their products accurately will be viewed in a progressively better light. If you’re confident that your products are properly tested and labeled, don’t be afraid to tell shoppers so.
This is one of the areas in which the advantages of working with a CBD white labeler become even more clear. Since they manage larger operations with better equipment, it’s easier for white labelers to accurately test their CBD products. Cannabinoid products that you buy from a CBD private labeler arrive fully tested and ready for sale, providing your customers with unparalleled assurance at no extra cost to you.
In general, we should promote proper, accurate labeling throughout the CBD industry. As long as companies continue to give CBD a bad name with products that don’t match up to their reputation, though, there’s no harm in simply providing shoppers with a better option.
Cannabinoid product mislabeling FAQ
Learn more about the details and dangers of cannabinoid product mislabeling below:
1. How many CBD products are mislabeled?
According to recent data from Leafreport we’ve commented on previously, only 7% of CBD companies properly test for contaminants, and only 40% of CBD products match their labeled potency. Overall, it’s safe to say that the majority of CBD products are either untested, mislabeled, or both — posing significant concerns for shoppers.
2. How accurate are CBD labels?
On average, CBD labels are not particularly accurate. In some cases, consulting lab reports provided by the brand can be helpful, but these reports can be falsified or inaccurate. The most surefire way to confirm the accuracy of a CBD product label is to have the product tested by an independent lab and to buy your products from a reputable brand who works with industry leading manufacturers, like GVB.
3. What are the labeling requirements for CBD products?
There are no federal labeling requirements for CBD products, and most states also do not impose labeling requirements for CBD products sold within their borders. The only “requirement” that CBD companies have to test their products is their reputation — educated shoppers will only trust CBD companies that test their products, and shoppers are becoming more educated on CBD all the time.
4. Do you need FDA approval to sell CBD?
No, FDA approval is not required to sell CBD products. The vast majority of CBD products, in fact, are not even eligible for FDA approval. As a result, approval from this federal organization is not the type of credential you should be looking for when determining the safety of CBD products.
5. Is there an FDA warning about CBD?
The FDA has issued numerous warnings to CBD products for mislabeling their products or making illegal claims. This federal agency has not issued any warnings to consumers, however, specifically regarding any potential dangers posed by CBD.
6. How do you know if CBD is real?
One of the best ways to determine if a CBD product is genuine is to check the lab report for the specific product in question. You’ll need to make sure that the report is for the product’s unique batch and that it was issued by a credible lab.
If you still have concerns about the authenticity of a CBD product, you may want to bring it to a lab for further testing yourself. You can avoid all the hassle, though, simply by sourcing your CBD from a reliable, large private labeling company.
1. Oleinik, G. (2022). CBD Market Report: Over Half of CBD Products Are Mislabeled. www.leafreport.com. https://www.leafreport.com/education/cbd-market-report-over-half-of-cbd-products-are-mislabeled-15084