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Top Tips for Purchasing CBD Products

By Pat Baird, MA, RDN, FAND

Cannabidiol (CBD) products continue to enjoy ever-increasing popularity. In fact, the US CBD market is projected to grow to $24.4 billion in 2020, according to the Brightfield Group, a leading consumer insights firm for the CBD and cannabis industries. Furthermore, according to The Motley Fool, a financial investment company in Alexandria, Virginia, the retail market will make up more than 60% of the CBD sales in the United States by 2024.

CBD is one of the more than 400 active ingredients in the cannabis plant and is a proven anti-inflammatory. It has been shown to treat anxiety, depression, seizures, and more. THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is another well-known compound that has psychotropic effects. Hemp is the strain of cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC and is used in most CBD products on the market.

CBD and hemp-containing products are available in the form of gummies, oils, cookies, candies, and beverages. Just as plentiful are the health claims and purported benefits of these products. The FDA doesn’t regulate them, so there can be wide variations in the type of health claims made as well as in the quality and concentrations of CBD in those products. For instance, a 2017 study of 84 different CBD products found that only 31% contained the amount of CBD stated on the label; 26% contained less than the amount of CBD listed on the label. It’s important for retail RDs—or those in any area of practice—to know what to look for when considering purchasing CBD products so they can counsel clients and patients effectively. Suggestions include the following:

• Look for a Certificate of Analysis (COA). This is a document that accompanies every CBD product and shows the amount of each cannabinoid it contains, as well as third-party testing information about additives, pesticides, and other information. Many companies, such as Made by Hemp, provide COAs and other product information for each item. On the Made by Hemp website, consumers simply click on a product for purchase to obtain the COA, and a QR code is printed on every package. These codes, which provide shoppers with information about testing, purity, and cannabinoid quantity, can be read through a QR code app (free download) on most cell phones. More and more companies are taking the extra steps to show consumers their products are high in quality by using third-party laboratories to test the authenticity and safety of ingredients for transparency.

• Check the packaging for other lab test certifications. Many companies test their CBD products for contaminants such as molds, pests, or heavy metals that may be harmful to health, and also provide results.

• Consider organic. If consuming organic foods is important to clients, suggest they check for that designation on labels. Palmetto Harmony in South Carolina was the first vertically integrated CBD organization to have flower and viable seed Certified Organic by the USDA. That means the growth, manufacturing, and product line (seed to shelf) is all Certified Organic, and it carries the USDA Organic Certification seal.

• Read labels. Just as dietitians recommend clients read the Nutrition Facts panel on food and beverage labels, they should urge clients to do the same for CBD products. Many companies use the same format the FDA mandates for regulated food products to list nutrition information and ingredients to make it easier for consumers to understand. CBD-containing foods and beverages have several ingredients, and CBD oils and tinctures often include coconut oil or macadamia nut oil and may contain flavors and sweeteners such as stevia for palatability.

In summary, dietitians should look for the continued surge in CBD products. Canafarma Corp, makers of YOOFORIC Full Spectrum Chewing Gum and YOOFORIC Full Spectrum Hemp Oil, is one of the first entities to be granted a hemp cultivation and processing license by the State of New York. The company has plans for immense growth in 2020, projecting $45 million in revenue, according to CEO David Lonsdale. Dietitians need to grow in their knowledge of CBD- and cannabis-containing products along with this booming industry. This entails following the science behind CBD, determining what’s evidence based and what’s not; labeling, quality, safety, and legal issues; and helping clients navigate this new path to wellness.

— Pat Baird, MA, RDN, FAND, is a cannabis educator and dietitian. She completed the Cannabis Science & Medicine Certificate program at the University of Vermont Medical School. She’s also an author, speaker, and adjunct professor of nutrition at the University of Connecticut and Norwalk Community College.