NIHC Moves to Strengthen CBD Testing Standards, Labels
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NIHC Moves to Strengthen CBD Testing Standards, Labels

The National Industrial Hemp Council will launch a pilot program enabling participants to label their products with its approval.

November 17, 2021

The National Industrial Hemp Council (NIHC) of America is taking testing and labeling standards into its own hands, as the CBD industry still has no clear direction from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Aiming to establish an accurate and consistent testing regime, NIHC plans to roll out a pilot program establishing standards for product testing protocols and laboratories, the advocacy organization announced Nov. 16. Program participants will be able to utilize an NIHC-approved label, much like the FDA issues for products it regulates.

The NIHC move comes as FDA officials continue to drag their feet on establishing a regulatory pathway for non-medical CBD as a dietary supplement and food ingredient.

RELATED: FDA Balks at CBD Dietary Supplement Application, Maintaining Regulatory Uncertainty

NIHC’s hope is to strengthen consumer confidence for CBD products being purchased over the counter by ensuring the accuracy of product labeling through uniform testing measures, NIHC President and CEO Patrick Atagi said in a news release.

“We’re excited for this program that we believe is going to strengthen consumer confidence, promote accuracy in labeling and, ultimately, protect the brand of hemp,” he said. “Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, consumers have been waiting for the FDA to act on CBD. Without any guidance from the FDA thus far, NIHC is stepping up to develop our own testing standards and labeling protocols that we believe will enhance consumer safety and protect the consumer’s right to know.”

The announcement came just ahead of NIHC’s planned meeting with FDA Cannabis Product Committee Chair Grail Sipes, scheduled for Nov. 17.

The FDA’s position on CBD has been—and continues to be—that it needs more research and safety data before regulating and approving the cannabinoid for non-medical purposes. A pharmaceutical version of CBD, Epidiolex, is currently approved and regulated by the FDA. 

Industry stakeholders have been attempting to provide the data and reassurances the FDA seeks.

RELATED: Preliminary Results of Validcare CBD Study Show No Evidence of Liver Toxicity

In January 2021, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy released the agency’s official position on needing better data for a better understanding of the use and safety profile of CBD products.  

“The FDA evaluates CBD just like any other substance we regulate, under a regulatory framework defined by law and with rigorous scientific evidence as a basis for both our regulatory approach and information we communicate,” they stated. “We’ve consistently communicated concerns and questions regarding the science, safety and quality of many of these products based on currently available evidence.

“We still don’t have clear answers to important questions such as what adverse reactions may be associated with CBD products and what risks are associated with the long-term use of CBD products. Better data in these areas are needed for the FDA and other public health agencies to make informed, science-based decisions that impact public health.”

While many states began passing low-THC, high-CBD medical cannabis laws in 2014, the 2018 Farm Bill’s passage—removing hemp from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substance Act—made the FDA’s work on CBD issues particularly applicable under national law, yet the industry remains in a gray area at the end of 2021.

In establishing an accurate and consistent testing regime, NIHC officials believe their own advocacy group’s label will bring value to the marketplace and integrity to products sold national in stores and online, according to Barry Carpenter, an NIHC Board member and senior adviser for Regulatory Affairs and Client Relations for Food Safety Net Services (FSNS).

“As one of North America’s leading food and consumer product testing companies, FSNS is pleased to lead this effort,” Carpenter said in the NIHC release. “This initiative will bring value to the marketplace and peace of mind to the consumer with reliable and transparent information about CBD products.”

To accomplish its goals, NIHC is exploring testing standards and third-party verification laboratory requirements that will be applicable when testing for potency, pesticides, metals, terpenes and other product attributes.

In addition, NIHC is looking to partner and explore these standards with world-leading standards bodies in hopes of making its pilot program for CBD companies and labs available for enrollment. 

“With NIHC developing its own standards and label, consumers looking to buy CBD products, at either brick-and-mortar retail stores or online, will have an opportunity to look for an NIHC label that ensures products that they’re considering purchasing meet the most stringent safety protocols in the hemp industry,” according to the release.