Two surveys conducted in the last year by Dynata and YouGov showed between 8% and 11% of adults in the UK have tried CBD, with the stats showing similar use between all age groups and social classes. Interestingly, the two most important preferences that drive consumer buying decisions are quality and purity. These were more important than labelling, origin (although there is a preference for British-produced), price or brand factors.
A big issue in the UK is, unfortunately, the lack of regulatory oversight governing the quality and purity of CBD products which makes it difficult for consumers to make informed decisions.
What’s actually in your CBD product?
Let’s take the average CBD user in the UK. Most people, when trying a product for the first time, will ask friends and family for a recommendation. But, with CBD, it’s slightly different as there is still some stigma with consuming this legal form of cannabis. So, many people instead tend to head to the closest high street store and purchase a bottle off the shelf.
The problem with this is that there is very little regulation in the UK for CBD. Producers may not make medical claims about their CBD products, but as long as they stick to generalisations that refer to the product’s ability to support and/or maintain health and wellness, there is very little regulatory oversight.
A recent study selected 30 different CBD products in the UK for a blind experiment. They were all tested at PhytoVista, a UK-based laboratory with a good reputation, and the results were concerning as the products all varied widely in their quality and purity. Some were excellent quality and would be a good choice for a consumer, but many had labelling inaccuracies as well as the presence of controlled substances and contaminants, and even the complete absence of any cannabinoids at all.
To summarise the findings:
- Only 38% of the products were within 10% of the advertised level of CBD
- 38% had less than 50% of the advertised CBD
- One product (from a high street pharmacy) had 0% CBD (and no other cannabinoid content)
- 45% were technically illegal in the UK having THC over 0.04% or CBD over 0.01%
- One product had 3.8% ethanol and therefore qualifies as an alcoholic beverage
- 24% of productes tested contained low levels of Dichoromethane, and one contained cyclohexane. These levels of solvents and heavy metals are above food limit safety levels (but fall below pharmaceutical daily dose levels).
How can finding a reputable CBD brand help?
It all comes down to peace of mind. A reputable CBD company will be testing their products to ensure that the end consumer receives an exceptionally pure, high-quality product.
A reputable CBD company will be testing (using a third-party lab) every step of the way. Testing starts with every batch of incoming Cannabis extract or oil because, while there is an additional cost to the testing, it’s important to know the % strength of the extract. Each extract may differ slightly so, in order to produce a product that matches the advertised CBD mg content, each incoming batch needs to be tested. This process saves money in the long run as the final product is much less likely to be understrength.
After production, the CBD company should then submit the final product for independent testing to verify the percentage of CBD, the presence of other cannabinoids if applicable, and the absence of hard metals, solvents, and pesticides.
Reputable Third-Party Labs
If you want to check a product’s lab reports, it’s most likely that they’ll be from Phytovista, the UK’s most popular independent lab. Other labs that come highly recommended include Fundacion Canna and Eurofins. Their testing will include terpenoid, microbiological, cannabinoid, heavy metal, and multi-residue pesticide analysis. If the lab results are from a different lab, you’ll need to do a bit more digging to check that the lab has a good reputation.
COA (Certificate of Analysis) tests don’t have a set validity, rather each new batch of product that is produced needs its own COA. This means that each batch has a COA that is linked to it indefinitely. These analysis certificates mean that both the consumer and the producer can be fully confident about the consistency of the product because every single batch has been tested.
Tests would be deemed to be invalid if the company is associating a COA done for an older batch with a newer batch. This means that if you can only see an older COA for the product you are purchasing, the chances are that it’s not for the same batch that you’re buying from, and you, therefore, need to be cautious about buying that product. Ideally, the company that you’re buying from should offer products that come with a batch number and provide a way for you to look up the COA for the specific batch that you are purchasing.
It’s normal for there to be some discrepancies between lab results as each lab has its own methodology, testing equipment, and each operator will calibrate their machines slightly differently. If each of these cogs could be standardised, then test results would be consistent every time. In most cases, the discrepancies are very small when you use a credible lab. If results are completely different between different labs, this would be a red flag.
What does this mean for a new CBD user?
Finding high-quality CBD isn’t difficult as long as you do your research, this means looking at different CBD options and making a shortlist of products checking that:
- They prioritise and make available their third-party lab reports
- There are lab reports available for each product batch (either on their website or via email when you request them)
- The lab reports verify the level of CBD advertised on the product label
- The testing has been done by a reputable third-party laboratory (such as Phytovista)