How to Read CBD Product Labels

How to Read CBD Product Labels
Written by Lisa Rennie

Cannabidiol (CBD) is becoming increasingly popular among consumers looking for alternative ways to alleviate various ailments and enhance overall health and wellness. However, not all CBD products are the same. Consumers need to be fully aware of what they are buying and consuming, and a key component to an informed purchasing decision is carefully reading CBD product labels. 

The legality surrounding the distribution and sale of CBD products depends on their intended use and how they are labeled and advertised. All CBD products must comply with all applicable laws, including the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act, even if the product meets the legal definition of “hemp” under the 2018 Farm Bill

The FDA’s current foods and dietary supplement regulations provide few tools to manage the potential risks that may come with CBD products. Under the law, CBD products must meet stringent safety standards to be legally advertised as dietary supplements. Some risk management tools include clear and detailed labels to provide consumers with as much information as possible about the products they’re consuming.

At the present time, CBD is considered legal thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp-based CBD products for industrial use. However, CBD is still federally regulated. So far, only one CBD-based pharmaceutical product has been approved for the market: Epidiolex, a pure form of CBD oil designed to treat severe epilepsy.

Without clear federal regulations, states have implemented their own regulations surrounding the distribution and sale of CBD-derived products. The variations among states in terms of CBD regulation has led to inconsistent CBD labeling, to the detriment of consumers. Ultimately, it is up to consumers to become educated on the topic of CBD products and what consists of a detailed label. 

FDA Regulations on Product Labels

The FDA has specific label requirements for containers and packages of dietary supplements. Contents of labels must include the following information:

  • Statement of the supplement’s identity; 
  • Quantity of contents in the container;
  • Nutrition labeling;
  • Ingredient list;
  • Manufacturer’s name and place of business. 

All required label statements must be placed on the front label panel or on the information panel, unless an exemption exists. The statement of the product’s identity and the quantity of contents must be stated on the front display panel. This is the panel that is most easily seen by the consumer at the time of display. The nutrition labeling, ingredient list, and name and place of business of the manufacturer can be placed on the information panel if there is not enough space on the main display panel.

How to Read CBD Labels

Consumers looking to purchase CBD products are well-advised to carefully and thoroughly read the labels on commercial products to ensure safety and efficacy. The following are important components to understand when reading CBD labels prior to making a purchase.

CBD dose

The concentration of CBD is a crucial factor to consider when purchasing a CBD product. Different amounts may elicit different effects. The label of a product should detail the total milligrams of CBD in the bottle, as well as how much is contained within one serving. 

Currently, no standard CBD dose exists. Those who are new to the world of CBD will want to experiment with dosages, starting with very small doses and gradually increasing in increments until the desired effect is achieved. 

CBD source

The source of CBD is something consumers may be interested in. Hemp-based CBD is derived from industrial hemp plants that contain no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Conversely, other CBD products that are derived from cannabis plants may contain more than 0.3% THC.

This is an important distinction to make, as THC is the compound in cannabis that induces psychotropic effects. Those who wish to consume CBD with no mind-altering effects will want to search for products containing hemp-derived CBD.

Consumers may also want to look for more specific terminology when describing the CBD contained in a product. For instance, CBD isolate products refer to pure CBD without the presence of other cannabinoids, while full-spectrum CBD may include small amounts of other cannabinoids, including THC. Broad-spectrum CBD, on the other hand, may include other cannabinoids and terpenes, but no THC.

Ultimately, CBD product labels should be specific about the source of the cannabinoid. Obscure terms such as “hemp oil” do not provide enough information about the amount of CBD, the source of CBD, or if any CBD is present at all. 

Third-party lab test results

Third-party lab testing is essential in today’s CBD market. The purpose of third-party testing is to ensure CBD products are thoroughly tested by an independent and unbiased party to provide an in-depth analysis of the product’s purity, quality, and potency. More specifically, quality CBD products from trustworthy manufacturers should include a Certificate of Analysis (COA) from an independent cannabis lab. The information contained within the COA should match the manufacturer’s claims about the product. 

Additional ingredients

Other ingredients besides CBD should be listed on a product label. Depending on the exact type of product, other ingredients may include oils, glycerin, flavors, and colors. Some ingredients may be considered safe or healthy, while others may be substances that some consumers may want to avoid.

Manufacturing date

Like other consumable products, CBD products may have a certain shelf life. For this reason, it’s helpful to determine the date the product was created. CBD products, in particular, may deteriorate over time. Ideally, CBD products should not be any older than a few weeks or months. 

License numbers

There are several reliable CBD manufacturers that have obtained their state licenses to develop, distribute, and sell their CBD products to consumers. However, there are many others that have not. Consumers may be well-advised to look for manufacturers that have distinguished themselves from non-licensed makers. This may be done by looking for a license number on the product label. 

Proper labeling helps consumers distinguish trustworthy manufacturers and quality CBD products from suspect ones, while helping CBD companies remain in compliance with laws and local regulations.

About the author

Lisa Rennie