Multiple independent tests of CBD-infused water have found it frequently contains zero CBD. The FDA has also flagged a lab that approved test results for CBD-infused water for varied violations.
The Cannabis Industry; including those who are growing cannabis, and specifically the CBD industry is exceedingly popular. The exceptionally under-regulated CBD has led to a surge of products entering the market, from CBD workout gear to infused pillows. However, with the shortage of regulatory oversight, many consumers have questioned whether the labels of those cannabinoid-infused products are often trusted. The FDA just warned 15 companies for illegally marketing and selling CBD products.
The Leafly exposé
In Summer 2019, Leafly published a deep dive investigation into this new industry, bringing 47 CBD products to a third-party laboratory on a mission to seek out out what proportion CBD they contained. Within the shocking results, only about half the products tested contained within 20% of the CBD that was labeled. Among people who failed, all four of the following CBD water products tested below 20%, with three out of 4 containing no CBD.
- Mountjoy soda water
- Fresh CBD Water
- Herbal Springs
- CBD Living Water
Each of those products was analyzed by Redmond-based testing lab Confidence Analytics for Leafly's investigation. Mountjoy, Fresh, and CBD Living tested at 0% CBD while Herbal Springs tested at 7 mg CBD instead of the ten mg that was advertised. All four CBD water products claim to use nanotechnology to emulsify CBD, leading to equal distribution throughout an outsized quantity of liquid.
The plot thickens
Test results for CBD Living Water were also recently shared with The Blacklist XYZ (a user-generated cannabis news outlet) by an anonymous party who claimed that there was no CBD within the product, igniting a firestorm of comments on social media on the heels of Leafly's investigation. Digging deeper, we also found an earlier independent investigation from KGW8, a Portland-based television station, which had also hired a third-party lab and located zero CBD within the "infused" drinking water that they tested.
In a PDF that's now published alongside test results for CBD Living's infused water, the corporate states that they need "provisionally concluded" that the nano-emulsified CBD in their product is merely verifiable through a unique process they describe as "BY INPUT," which standard HPLC tests will not be ready to detect their CBD because the particles are too small.
What does the science say?
To provide clarity, Confidence Analytics Operations Director Pat Reynolds took the time to answer a number of our questions on the method of testing infused beverages, the methods utilized in the method, and what "CBD nanotechnology" actually means.
According to Reynolds, "nanoemulsion" — about an emulsion whose droplet sizes are within the 20-200 nanometer range — is not an equal thing as "nanotechnology," which is that the field of engineering that deals with the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules. He disagrees with the association that a lot of those brands have drawn, stating, "Nanoemulsions are produced by high-shear mixing… I assume you will call that a sort of nanotechnology, but to my mind, that is a touch of a stretch."
This is something like differentiating between hemp seeds and marijuana seeds. Although the same in genetics but total different in effects and uses.
Reynolds disagrees with CBD Living's claim that the CBD in their products would be undetectable after nanoemulsion.
"A CBD molecule may be a CBD molecule. If you break it up into smaller fragments, it is not CBD and can not act like CBD. Adding 'nano' ahead of the word does not change the molecule itself. albeit a beverage is presented as a nanoemulsion when the lab adds a solvent as a part of their extraction process, this causes the emulsion to interrupt, and anything encapsulated within the nanoemulsion is going to be visible to the lab's instruments."
Ganjapreneur reached bent CBD Living for comment, but the corporate had not yet responded by the time of this article's publishing.
Different labs, different results
While CBD Living maintains that their nano-emulsified CBD is undetectable by most labs, they are doing provide test results alongside their infused water product — the foremost recent of which is dated August 7, 2019. The third-party laboratory that provided the testing certificate is Advanced Botanical Consulting & Testing, Inc., or ABC Testing, a California-based lab that focuses on testing beauty products, pharmaceuticals, and nutritional supplements. However, a quick investigation of publicly-available information about ABC Testing yielded some exciting results.
On June 4, 2019, ABC Testing was served with a politician warning letter from the FDA following an inspection that resulted in four serious violations. Therein letter, the FDA stated that equivalent violations were prevalent after an inspection of ABC Testing in 2012, implying that the lab took no action after the initial letter was received.
In total, the violations that ABC Testing was warned about include:
Failure to determine and document the accuracy, sensitivity, specificity, and reproducible of their test methods.
Inability to make sure that laboratory records included complete data derived from all tests that are necessary to be compliant with established standards.
No control exercised over a computer or related systems to make sure that only authorized personnel can institute changes in master products and records.
Failure to routinely calibrate, inspect, or check equipment consistent with a written program designed to assure optimal performance and failure to take care of written records of calibration checks or inspection of kit or computers wont to manufacture, process, pack, and hold pharmaceutical products.
These are not the sole issues associated with the management and protocols in situ at ABC Testing Inc. Multiple sources claim that the corporate features a history of falsifying lab results.
According to a Trust Transparency report, in 2016, ABC Testing performed microbial analysis on a stool-softener drug. It provided a certificate of a study concluding that the bacteria Burkholderia cepacia (B. capacity) was not present. When the FDA and CDC tested samples of an equivalent lot; however, the agencies found Burkholderia cepacia (B. cepacia). This strain genetically matched one that was involved up to 60 cases of illness and death directly associated with the batch of stool softeners that ABC Testing had cleared.
Former employees of ABC Testing have also commented online that the company's test results are not always 100% factual. Publicly reviews posted on Glassdoor, three separate individuals state that the lab's supervisor changes test results to satisfy customer requests. The corporate features a 2-star rating overall supported a complete of 15 different reviewers.
Despite having received multiple warnings from the FDA dating back over seven years, ABC Testing remains licensed. It continues to work, providing certificates for the right sort of products starting from CBD brands to cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and nutritional supplements. Moreover, months after Leafly's expose and multiple other reports, CBD Living Water remains available via the company's website, amid its certificate from ABC Testing.
What consumers need to do?
Cannabis industry insiders are advising friends and family for years to take care of which CBD brands to trust and what to avoid. One of the foremost frequently repeated recommendations to new CBD buyers has been to get from brands that publish third-party test results online. However, it is now clear that this is often not enough. Consumers must also research the people behind the products, the claims wont to market the products, also because the labs that have certified those products. People that follow the industry could also be ready to assist those in their immediate circles, but this is often not a sensible expectation for somebody who is looking to get CBD online after reading testimonials or hearing about it from their neighbors.
The idea that the CBD landscape is vastly under-regulated and over-hyped is nothing new. However, the very fact that FDA-approved testing labs can operate for years after receiving multiple warnings reveals that the danger to consumers extends far beyond the planet of CBD. Quite anything. This revelation suggests that buyers should not assume that any product is safe only because it has packaged professionally and presented to them during familiar retail or online-shopping environment.