A high proportion of CBD (cannabidiol) products sold in Ireland are in breach of food laws and some may pose safety risks to consumers, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has warned.
It is recalling a number of products due to the presence of a psychotropic substance.
CBD is a chemical found in the Cannabis sativa plant, also known as marijuana or hemp. It is known to offer medical benefits in some cases, such as in certain rare forms of epilepsy.
CBD does not make a person high because it does not contain THC (tetrahydrocannbinol), the psychotropic chemical in cannabis that makes the user high. Products containing CBD can be legally sold in Ireland.
The FSAI decided to carry out a national survey of 38 CBD products available in Ireland. It found that the majority of products tested were in breach of various articles of food law, while some posed potential safety risks.
Some 37% of the products had a THC content that could significantly exceed safety limits set by the European Food Safety Authority (ESFA), and batches of these products are currently being recalled.
The FSAI said that these results "indicate a more widespread problem with THC content in these products that merits further investigation".
"While consumer safety is the priority, the undeclared presence of THC in these products can also pose a risk for drivers, as well as athletes who may be buying and consuming these products without knowing they contain a psychotropic substance," it said.
Furthermore, the survey found that the CBD content in 41% of samples differed significantly from the declared CBD content. In all of these products, the content differed by more than 50%.
Some 34% of the products tested were classified as novel foods. However, these require authorisation before being placed on the EU market, therefore these products should not be on the market.
Meanwhile, 50% of the products made misleading claims, such as gluten free and lactose free, as well as various other health and medicinal claims.
"The implications of these results for consumers range from consumers being grossly misled, to being put at risk by the ingestion of relatively high levels of THC," the FSAI said.
It noted that the majority of the 38 products tested from the Irish market were manufactured outside of the country. According to FSAI chief executive, Dr Pamela Byrne, it is difficult to estimate the number of CBD-based products on the market in Ireland, as many of the products which come from outside of Ireland "have not been notified to the FSAI contrary to legal requirements, and are traded online".
"We carried out this survey to determine exactly how compliant these products are with EU and Irish food legislation. People consuming CBD products, where the quality control is poor, may not be getting what they are paying for and also could unwittingly be exposing themselves to psychoactive THC," she commented.
She also pointed out that people consuming CBD products containing significantly high levels of THC could fail a drug test.
"The implicated batches of the products identified in the survey are now subject to a product recall. We are working with the Environmental Health Service of the HSE in relation to other products identified in the survey and further appropriate action will be taken," Dr Byrne added.
For more information on the recalled products, click here.
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