CBD purity testing for three main contaminants — microbes, pesticides, or heavy metals — is crucial for manufacturers, seeing as harmful contaminants can be unwittingly harbored within hemp crops and hurt end users. Leafreport, a CBD industry watchdog, released a report in late May which found that only seven percent of brands test for these contaminants.
An Industry Hungry for Success
The popularity of CBD continues to soar, thanks to consumers who cannot get enough of the psychoactive (yet non-intoxicating) cannabinoid. Growing clinical evidence suggests that CBD carries a host of therapeutic benefits, which only serves to compound demand for the cannabinoid. As a consequence, more brands are entering the CBD space, determined to seize their share of this lucrative industry.
However, the beneficial factors of CBD are contingent upon the purity and potency of the product in question. Merchandise with inaccurate potency levels and questionable purity may offer little therapeutic benefit, or worse, could be harmful. Leafreport’s 2021 market report found that too frequently, consumers do not receive what they pay for. Forty-four percent of products advertised as broad or full-spectrum CBD are mislabeled, and on average, the CBD content deviates from the quantity on the label by almost 25 percent.
The Reality of Purity & Potency Testing
This year, Leafreport reviewed 188 brands for transparency, purity, and potency — a vast increase from the 136 brands they evaluated in 2021. They also reviewed 4,384 products, carefully evaluating each item’s potency level, whether it fell within the acceptable reported testing variance limit of 10 percent, and if the product had been tested for microbes, heavy metals, and pesticides. Compared to 2021, brand commitment to potency, purity testing, and ensuring acceptable levels of potency variance appears to be floundering.
Here are some of the key takeaways that reveal the most about brand transparency, quality, safety, and the current state of the market:
- 20% of the brands Leafreport reviewed did not carry out any purity tests to check for the presence of microbes, pesticides, or heavy metals. In 2021, 25% of the brands reviewed did not carry out any purity tests.
- 7% of brands tested all of their products for microbes, pesticides, and heavy metals, compared to 6% in 2021.
- 42% of brands test almost all of their products for potency (90%-100% accurate) and share their third-party lab results with consumers — the same as in 2021.
- Only 12% of brands had all of their products fall within acceptable potency variance limits.
- 88% of brands that tested their products for potency had at least one product test beyond the 10% variance for potency, in comparison to 84% in 2021.
- 28% of brands did not carry out any testing at all for pesticides (such as glyphosate), 26% did not test for the presence of any heavy metals (such as arsenic), and 24% did not test for microbes (like bacteria).
- Two brands carried out no lab testing at all for either purity or potency, compared to three brands in 2021.
The Path to a Better Future
For the most part, the industry seems to be doing better in terms of testing their products, but we still have a long way to go. According to Leafreport’s 2022 study, Papa & Barkley CEO Guy Rocourt believes we are seeing standards slipping among CBD companies, with some bypassing their duty of care to consumers. “The CBD industry is worsening its standards in relation to transparency and quality for a couple of reasons. First, we are seeing a race to the bottom with brands over-refining their CBD products, which is moving it away from true plant-based medicine. We are also not seeing the industry provide accurate standards or sufficient regulations to inform consumers,” he said in the report.
As long as we continue to see an increase in efforts with companies testing the products they sell, we can eventually get to a place of solid trust in the industry. Until then, there is work to be done and education that continuously needs to be pushed onto consumers, much like Leafreport’s studies.