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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
Is anyone watching out for quality in the hemp CBD market?
The hemp industry is hurtling forward, with new products turning heads left and right. Hemp, and especially hemp cannabidiol (CBD), is showing up in everything from coffee and snacks to condiments and even mascara. Changes in the market are happening quickly, starting with hemp agriculture itself with the December 2018 passage of the Farm Bill and an increase in U.S. hemp acreage. For CBD, there could be more political play to come as some lawmakers push FDA to open a legal pathway to CBD in foods, supplements, and other products.
All of these developments have made CBD, and hemp, one of the highest-profile ingredients of 2019. The CBD market in particular is just beginning, and more companies are now assessing opportunities versus risks. It’s a new, exciting era, and changes are happening quickly. In the meantime, however, is anyone watching out for quality in the market?
Late last year, hemp-advocacy group the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a coalition of hemp companies and grassroots organizations, launched a sister group called the U.S. Hemp Authority, which oversees a brand new hemp-certification program. “This is the first and only certification program for hemp inside the U.S.,” says Josh Hendrix, director of domestic hemp production for CBD company CV Sciences, whose products were one of the first to be certified by the new U.S. Hemp Authority Certification Program.
U.S. Hemp Authority and its certification program are endorsed by notable groups, including the nonprofit trade group Hemp Industries Association. The program also has the credibility of the American Herbal Products Association, whose guidelines were used to create the standards for the U.S. Hemp Authority’s certification program.
The U.S. Hemp Authority certification program addresses hemp growers/processors and finished-product companies. Certified growers and processors can use the program’s certification seal in their advertising, marketing, and product labeling, while finished-product makers can use the seal on their products to give consumers added confidence in their products’ safety and quality. Audits are performed by certification body Where Food Comes From, which vets applicants’ adherence to FDA Current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). A comprehensive look at the program’s guidelines, encompassing everything from employee best practices and analytical and testing processes for purity and contaminants to guidelines for harvesting, handling, storage, distribution, and quality-management systems, are available at U.S. Hemp Authority’s website.
Companies are flocking to participate. On January 29, U.S. Hemp Authority president Marielle Weintraub, business development director at Eurofins Food Integrity & Innovation, said that more than 175 companies are in the process of seeking to become certified. U.S. Hemp Authority plans to start releasing names of its certification awardees in March.
“Consumers will start to see products bearing the certification seal on store shelves and online around the second quarter of this year,” Hendrix adds. “The U.S. Hemp Authority stands out because it is specific to agricultural hemp and is focused on pushing the industry forward, from the farm to the consumer.”
A quality-assurance program in the hemp industry could not be more necessary, especially as lawmakers and regulators scrutinize the hemp and CBD space and as members of the hemp industry look to show that this is a market that can operate responsibly. A U.S. Hemp Roundtable press release announcing the new certification program stated: “After decades of prohibition, the U.S. hemp industry has been reborn. Every day, more and more Americans adopt and come to rely on hemp-based products-for food, fabric, construction, and hundreds of other applications. With this growth only set to increase, the time is now for the hemp industry to establish and embrace standards, best practices, and self-regulation.”
Hendrix adds: “Introducing the certification program is our industry’s initiative to provide high standards, best practices, and self-regulation, giving confidence to consumers and law enforcement that hemp products are safe and legal.”