The lack of strict regulations and quality control of hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) products is notorious at this point. Various studies by independent labs have shed light on jarring discrepancies between advertised contents on products’ labels and their actual contents.
Besides the obvious issue of fairness and not getting what you pay for, this is a major problem on two other fronts: dosing and health. If a product’s advertised CBD levels are incorrect, so will be the dosing. Consumer health, on the other hand, is endangered by contaminants that are often found at alarmingly high levels.
Both these issues apply in full force to pets, which is why a group of scientists decided to do a random Google search, pick out 30 products for dogs (soft chew, dry powder, oil, and capsule), and see if the equally unregulated veterinary hemp supplement niche has also been inundated by low-quality, unsafe, and blatantly phony products.
The short answer is yes, even though the study’s findings weren’t as scandalous as some of the studies on hemp products for humans.
The good news is, all products had less than 0.3% THC, which might be even more important to veterinary products, as intoxication can be more unpredictable in pets.
However, out of 30 products, two products contained no CBD or other cannabinoids whatsoever, which clearly speaks to a premeditated ploy (one of these two products contained only hemp seed oil, which is why it was excluded from the sample).
Nine of the 29 products’ contents were over 110% of the contents declared on the label, and 10 products were under 90% of the label claim, while only 10 were within the 90-110% range that is considered acceptable.
“Reasons for low-THC Cannabis sativa discrepancies involve many factors such as poor formulation, degradation of cannabinoids and bioconversion over time, or inappropriate laboratory analysis.”
The researchers do note that they didn’t test multiple batches of a single product, which has been known to cause fluctuations in results, in part due to some products’ lack of homogeneity and in part to differences between testing methods. This only emphasizes the need for uniform, strict, and consistent regulations.
Interestingly, the cost per milligram of cannabinoid covered a ten-fold range depending on product. The researchers also noted several companies’ certificates of analysis were for raw plant materials rather than final product.
In terms of contaminants, the analysis for four common heavy metals (cadmium, arsenic, lead, mercury) revealed contamination in four out of the 29 products, with two of them having higher levels of arsenic and lead than the regulatory limits established by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for cannabis products.
Another interesting detail that the scientists stumbled upon was the “abnormally high total terpene concentrations in some products” indicating “spiking.” While generally speaking, the more terpenes, the better, these unusually high levels could be a ploy “to enhance the aroma, thereby misleading the consumer into thinking that the product was highly enriched with cannabinoids, despite phytocannabinoids having no scent or flavor.”
The key word here is “could” though, as the reason could also be the entourage effect and its medicinal benefits. Conversely, just as there are effective dose response curves for cannabinoids, more terpenes may not mean that a product is more effective. There’s likely an upper limit on the concentrations of terpenes that should be added to a given product.
Nevertheless, in a legitimate industry, as we all want the CBD field to become, there shouldn’t even be such questions with two diametrically opposite potential answers in the first place. There should be transparency and trust instead of doubt. There should be regulation.
Image Credits: geralt / Pixabay
- Wakshlag JJ, et al. Cannabinoid, terpene, and heavy metal analysis of 29 over-the-counter commercial veterinary hemp supplements. Veterinary Medicine: Research and Reports. 2020;11:45-55. Times Cited = 6 (Semantic Scholar)