Recent crackdowns muddy the waters
around CBD in food and beverages
CBD is known for many therapeutic benefits that it is known to offer. It can alleviate stress, depression, anxiety, pain, inflammation, etc.
Since it has become so famous, many people have started using it to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. Now, CBD has started being incorporated by food and beverage companies to launch CBD-infused eatables and have emerged as the top culinary trend in 2019, according to chefs surveyed by the National Restaurant Association. Bars and restaurants have been embracing it as an addition to drinks, desserts and other menu items. The reception by consumers has been positive, and sales of CBD products can be lucrative.
“My CBD stuff is absolutely the No. 1-selling revenue source in the store,” C.J. Holm, owner of New York City’s Fat Cat Kitchen, told the New York Times. The paper interviewed Holm last month after city health inspectors told the restaurant to stop selling CBD-infused products. Similar crackdowns on CBD products were also reports in Maine and Ohio.
The New York City Department of Health has since lifted the ban, saying it plans to reinstate it this summer and begin issuing official violations and fines in October. However, it’s not unlikely that that plan will change as laws around CBD continue to evolve.
CBD, also known as Cannabidiol, is a compound which is found in the cannabis plant and is known for offering medical benefits. As compared to marijuana, CBD has no psychotic effects; hence it won’t make you ‘high.’ It is generally considered safe, and restrictions around the hemp-derived substance have been loosening in the US over the past few years.
The 2014 Farm Bill allowed US state farmers to grow hemp legally, as it was no longer prohibited by the law. In 2018, the bill legalized the industrial production of hemp, hence, removing it from the list of ‘controlled and scheduled substances.’
While these new rules opened up opportunities for CBD, they didn’t spell out clear regulations for how and where CBD can be sold. To the contrary, the looser restrictions have led to a confusing patchwork of state and local laws that have hemp farmers, CBD manufacturers and food and beverage purveyors calling for more guidance from the Food and Drug Administration.
“The FDA has not classified it in any terms...whether it’s a drug, a dietary supplement or a food. That’s because when you deschedule something, it doesn’t magically get a new classification,” said Dylan Summers, director of government affairs for CBD company Lazarus Naturals.
Responding to requests for clearer rules, the FDA will hold the first public hearings on CBD next month, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced last week. The hearings will be the first step towards the agency issuing an official rule about companies adding CBD to food and beverages.
Meanwhile, restaurants should keep upgrading themselves about the use of CBD. “Operators are urged to follow all laws, including applicable federal, state and local laws that apply when selling or using those items at their restaurants,” National Restaurant Association officials said in a statement about CBD products earlier this year.
Dylan Summers encouraged restaurants to use CBD in their food, saying the more prevalent it is in the food service space, the stronger a case can be made for the idea that “hemp is food.” Summers explained that Lazarus subjects its products to third-party testing, which is standard for any reputable CBD brand.
“Everything we put out there has independent lab reports verifying what’s on the label is actually in the bottle,” said Rick Weissman, CEO of CBD producer High Falls Extracts. “I imagine part of the problem comes from the fact that restaurants are getting CBD from wherever.”
Weissman echoed Summers’ advice to operators to buy only certified CBD products, suggesting that they retain the certificates of analysis to back up claims about how many milligrams of CBD are in a given product. “If you’re a restaurant and you’re doing this, you want to be very precise,” he said.