The national nonprofit watchdog Center for Food Safety (CFS) released their new Hemp CBD Scorecard and accompanying report, with Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director and lead author, presenting the results of the scorecard at the Natural Products Hemp & CBD Summit on September 11. The report states that 18 of the 40 companies producing hemp CBD products evaluated for the report received a failing—or near failing—grade.
While 28 of the companies received grades of a C, D, or an F, the CFS is not stating that hemp CBD products from the companies are unsafe or advising consumers to stop using hemp CBD products. In fact, the report stated that most companies scored highly in the testing category which accounted for a maximum of 30 points in the 100-point survey. Most (80%) of the companies test their products for efficacy. The majority are testing for heavy metals such as lead and arsenic (67%) and for the presence of microbiological contaminants (65%). Almost half (45%) of the companies test for the presence of pesticides. However, the CFS noted that many of the companies that said they test for the presence of glyphosate did not provide specific findings for glyphosate.
Where companies did not score high in the “Hemp CBD Scorecard” were in the areas of production (total 25 points) and transparency (total 40 points). Most of the companies scored low in the area of production because they are not using organic hemp. While the CFS’s “goal overtime is to encourage companies to adopt strong organic production policies and/or source hemp from organic farmers” is admirable, this stance lowers the score of most medium- and large-sized hemp CBD companies as "USDA Certified Organic hemp" did not become available until a few months ago. This is damaging to companies who own their own supply chain and or who have longer strategic planning cycles as it will take many years to guarantee a steady supply of USDA Certified Organic hemp. Additionally, this scoring system hurts companies who want to make their product more affordable for consumers, as organic hemp CBD products are not necessarily attractive to all consumers.
Transparency is an area where hemp CBD companies can improve. As the CFS evaluated the responsiveness of companies, the companies that responded to The Center forFood Safety’s survey received points while non-responders did not. Given their “strong belief that consumers should have a right to know what they are consuming prior to purchasing a product”, the CFS gave half credit to companies who provide lab results to customers only upon request or after purchase. To obtain the full 40 points, companies needed to list their extraction methods and product lab results online, use third party certifications such as USDA Certified Organic or ISO lab Tested, and respond to the CFS survey, phone calls, and follow ups. Consumers want to know whether the hemp CBD products have the levels of cannabinoids stated on the label; that it has been tested for pesticides, heavy metals, and mold; and how it has been processed. Going forward, providing more information to the CBD consumer both on the package itself and on the company website will be crucial as more and more companies enter the U.S. hemp CBD market in order to establish credibility.
In summary, while only four companies scored an A in the inaugural Hemp CBD Scorecard, many of these companies are likely to improve their scores in the next report. While switching to USDA Certified Organic hemp will be cost prohibitive for most companies, testing for pesticides and contaminants, using independent certifications, and offering clear and transparent information on the packaging of their products and company websites is something that many hemp CBD companies can do within the next year as informed consumers begin to ask more questions about how their hemp CBD products were processed and tested.