April 22nd, 2019 – Consumer beware. In the fast emerging CBD products market, thousands of manufacturers around the world are rushing to capture market share and convince you, the consumer, that they’ve got the best products going. And while many manufacturers do in fact work hard to produce quality products, a 2017 study found 70% of nearly 90 CBD online products had inaccuracies between the information on the label and the actual contents when independently lab tested. Until now, without government standards with respect to production and testing, there has been no way for consumers to verify what they’re ingesting.
So what’s really in your CBD product?Are there toxins or pathogens in these products? How can you insure you’re getting the dose you’re paying for?
First a little background. Most CBD is derived from hemp, a known “bioaccumulator”, meaning that whatever was in the soil the plant grew in will end up in your product unless your manufacturer tests the product carefully. In fact, hemp is so good at taking toxins out of soil it’s being used to remediate radioactive soil at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Russia where a nuclear accident happened in 1986. And while hemp’s remarkable soil clean-up capacity is good news for environmental cleanup, it also underscores a serious issue when it comes to products derived from hemp: as a bioaccumulator hemp will draw heavy metals and pesticides from the soil. This makes it especially critical that proper testing and growing protocols be in place.
Additionally, just like the food you eat, plants grow in fields where all kinds of insects and other microbiology thrives. Without extraction standards and regulations in place to guarantee product safety, the nascent CBD industry is vulnerable to the potential negative impact by a few bad actors.
Furthermore, CBD products are usually used by consumers to support serious health and wellness conditions, such as sleep, anxiety or inflammation. Used for these purposes, customers have an increased need to have trust that what they are buying is a quality product, free of toxins and unwanted additives.
So what’s a consumer to do? Fortunately, there’s soon to be an app for that!
Digital tools emerge to track CBD from seed to shelf
It’s a sure sign of just how quickly the CBD market is maturing when mobile apps begin to emerge to track the origin, quality and provenance of CBD products. The Hemp News recently caught up with Richard Skaife, CEO of Cobidol, a Canadian start-up company demonstrating its soon to be launched mobile app “SpectraTM“, a so called “seed to shelf” mobile search app for CBD products. Richard says “We saw this big gap in the marketplace. The CBD industry is growing very quickly but has serious quality assurance issues to deal with. By adopting apps like SpectraTM there’s a chance for the industry to be proactive and self-regulate by being transparent with consumers about what’s in their products, before regulators do it for them”.
Cobidol Group describes itself as “a consumer-focused, technology-driven company delivering custom CBD products direct to consumers, to help the consumer and the industry develop trust in CBD brands.”
It appears Mr. Skaife may be on to something. After several years of an unregulated wild-west style market, regulators in Europe and the U.S. are starting to look closely at how to regulate the CBD market.
In Europe, CBD products were recently declared as limited to “external use” such as topicals, due to the European Commission’s “Novel Food” regulations on the compound. An amendment proposed by the European Food Safety Agency to include CBD in ingestible products could pass by the end of the year.
How it Works:
Cobidol’s “SpectraTM” app tracks CBD products from origin to customer. A search engine for high quality CBD product manufacturers, the app works to provide transparency and insights into the activities of all participants in the product value-chain, as the product makes its way from the farmer to the customer including certificates of analysis, lab tests, participant profiles and educational information etc..
Most CBD products start in a farmer’s field as the flowering parts of the hemp plant. When the plant is harvested, the flowers are dried and extracted to obtain the valuable CBD oils. Oil samples are usually sent for testing to ensure there are no pesticides or heavy metals. If the oil passes the test, it’s often sold to manufacturers who formulate into products like soft gels, topicals, edibles etc. SpectraTM tracks this whole product journey, with an easy to use interface.
An app user can capture the QR code from a product label or enter it into the search engine. They can then swipe through all the stages from cultivation to shelf, learning about the process, the ingredients and view testing certificates. Cobidol is running a pilot of the search app this summer with a small number of manufacturers with plans for a full public launch this fall.
Customers may well ask how do they know the data in the SpectraTM app is correct? After all if a manufacturer is prepared to try and sell substandard products, won’t they also be happy to enter substandard data into the database? By showing the whole value chain of manufacture, the reputation of each contributor is on the line.
To ensure data integrity, Cobidol has developed “Cobichain” a blockchain platform that’s easy for industry value-chain participants to access and use.
For example, a grower can use soil sensors to feed data feed into the platform, labs can contribute test results and manufacturers can upload certification papers.
Because it’s built on blockchain the records can’t be tampered with, bringing the highest levels of integrity to the data. So consumers can see the data in a beautiful way inside SpectraTM and the industry can use Cobichain in a practical and robust way.
As the CBD products industry matures, consumer tools like SpectraTM may be just what is needed to bring help regulators relax and enable consumers to differentiate the quality product brands from the rest.
Note: The author of this article is a co-founder of Cobidol.