To ensure you’re buying the safest, purest hemp oil and CBD products, it’s important to look beyond the ingredients on the label. You should also find out whether the company making the product maintains consistent quality controls from start to finish.
By Maureen West, JD, RDH, Chief Compliance Officer at Functional Remedies
Use of hemp oil and CBD products has become very popular. You might be surprised to learn that these products are for the most part, unregulated. Currently, no meaningful oversight or attention to consumer protection and safety exists.This lack of oversight has kept the door wide open for many hemp and CBD companies to make their products with few, if any, safety or quality standards in place.
Before you purchase a hemp oil or CBD product it’s important to do more than just skim the ingredients list. Words like “organic” or “gluten-free” tell you about what’s in the product but nothing about whether the product was made in a clean environment, free of contaminants.
And what about where the hemp was grown? What extraction process does the company use to remove the hemp oil or CBD from the plant? Is the process natural or were there chemicals used?
Before you make a purchase It’s worth checking to see if the company is certified in “Good Manufacturing Practice” (GMP). Earning GMP certification is no small effort. It takes a lot of time and resources to pass the scrutiny of an audit. GMP certification speaks loudly about a company’s commitment to excellence. If a company is GMP certified you will find the statement “GMP Certified” on its packaging and website.
Being assured that a company consistently follows proper health and safety practices is especially important right now as we all seek to stop the spread of COVID-19, or any other virus or bacteria for that matter. If you’re purchasing hemp oil or a CBD product, especially from an online seller, here are six essential things to consider before you choose.
1. Good Manufacturing Practices
Even though the use of hemp and CBD products is exploding, the FDA has been slow to introduce regulations or enforce consumer protection. Hemp and CBD companies have been getting by with very little accountability. This highlights those companies that have spent extensive resources to become GMP certified. These companies have demonstrated a commitment to quality that consumers should note and trust.
Becoming GMP certified is a complex process. A company must document every step in the manufacturing process including all aspects of cleaning and sterilizing, employee training, ingredient sourcing, and label verification. GMP certificates are issued after a company undergoes an intense audit and inspection. Once certified, auditors may pay surprise visits to make sure the company hasn’t slacked off in its GMP compliance.
2. Sanitation and Cleanliness
Consumers deserve products they ingest or apply on their skin that are made in a sanitary environment. GMP certified companies go through extensive inspections to ensure that each step of the manufacturing process the environment is clean and disinfected.
The type of cleaning agent used is also important. For example, GMP certification requires the manufacturer to show only “food-grade” cleaners are used in the facility. Employees are trained and evaluated to make sure all cleaning procedures are carefully followed.
An estimated 600 million people become sick from something they eat or drink each year, resulting in more than 400,000 thousand deaths. While the COVID-19 pandemic is shining a spotlight on the importance of not transmitting the coronavirus, hemp and CBD manufacturers must also protect consumers from other microorganisms, particularly E coli, which tends to grow on leafy plants such as hemp. Ingesting E coli has led to serious illness and even death. GMP certified companies have demonstrated they have the mechanisms to avoid an E coli outbreak.
3. Source of Hemp
Consumers choose to purchase hemp oil or CBD products because of their health benefits. But not all hemp is the same. Key factors include whether the soil is tested for nutrients, microbes, and heavy metals to ensure purity and safety. Manufacturers should also find hemp sources that have the highest potency and consistency so the product line is dependable. Organic practices should be used to ensure that nothing harmful is added to the hemp plants for growing or pesticide control.
When choosing a hemp oil or CBD product, a good question to ask is whether the manufacturer grows its own hemp (referred to as being “vertically-integrated”). Although companies are not required to be vertically-integrated, there are a lot of benefits if a company grows its own hemp.
Vertically-integrated companies can test their hemp plants throughout the growth cycle and monitor for needed nutrients and other factors that produce the healthiest plants possible. Healthy plants make for healthier products. A vertically-integrated company also maintains historical knowledge about its plants and uses this information to ensure potency. For the consumer, this means they’re buying from a brand that can provide consistently beneficial results.
4. Extraction Techniques
Extraction is the process by which hemp oil or CBD is removed from the hemp plant. Which technique a company uses to perform this technique matters.
The chemicals used in extractions may come as a surprise especially to those consumers who pay more for organic products. Many hemp and CBD companies use harsh chemicals and solvents to extract the hemp or CBD from the plant. This can mangle and distort cell walls.
Lipid infusion is a gentler process that is completely natural and uses no chemicals or solvents. Lipid infusion transfer can also increase bioavailability. You also don’t want to miss out on the terpenes and full range of cannabinoids that might not be present in a product if a harsh extraction technique is used.
5. Third-Party Testing
Before purchasing a hemp oil or CBD product, consumers should definitely look to see if the company does third-party testing, which is a necessary part of GMP compliance. Third-party testing means that the manufacturer sends samples of its products to an independent lab to test for such things as microbiological contamination, heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides. Third-party testing provides an unbiased analysis of a company’s product.
This testing is particularly important when it comes to hemp products because hemp plants are especially good at pulling toxins out of soil. Hemp plants were actually used to clean up the soil after the nuclear accident that happened in Chernobyl in 1986. You do not want to be ingesting hemp products that have not been tested for heavy metals.
6. Product Packaging and Labeling
Many consumers think hemp and CBD products are all essentially the same and provide the same health benefits. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Due to a lack of regulation, there are many unethical manufacturers out there pushing their products.There are also many well-intentioned manufacturers that miss the mark because they don’t use good manufacturing practices.
Consumers frequently choose products that are labeled “non-GMO,” “Vegan,” or “Gluten Free.” How do you know for sure that these are true statements? If a company uses the terms “GMP Certified” or “GMP Certification,” you know that the company has proven these claims to an independent third-party auditor. A hemp oil or CBD manufacturer will proudly display these terms on its packages or websites because it demonstrates its commitment of quality. If you don’t see these words, it’s fair to assume that the manufacturer is not certified.
For a product that has the potential to be so beneficial to your health, it doesn’t make sense to waste your money on hemp oil or CBD product that isn’t created to the highest standards. Before you purchase hemp oil, take the time to research manufacturers and sellers, and look for these six elements in the companies behind the products.
Maureen West is chief compliance officer at Functional Remedies, a pioneer in the wellness industry known for its full-spectrum, hemp-based seed-to-bottle products. Prior to her role at Functional Remedies, Maureen served in the roles of Colorado Industrial Hemp Program Manager and Colorado assistant attorney general.