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FDA Issues New Warnings About CBD

Food & Wine logo Food & Wine 11/26/2019 Jelisa Castrodale
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In the past couple of years, CBD has become like the James Corden of food and drink additives, appearing somewhere else every time you turn your head. There's a seemingly endless list of CBD products, ranging from CBD cocktails and coffees, CBD-topped pizza, a one-day-only CBD-sauced Burger King burger, and even CBD-enhanced Edible Arrangements.

But the rapid growth of the CBD industry has raised some eyebrows—and it has also raised some concerns. In July, the former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Scott Gottleib, wrote a lengthy op-ed for the Washington Post, harrumphing that the "CBD craze has gotten out of hand," and he encouraged his former agency to enact further regulations on the compound, especially when it comes to its use in foods, drinks, and over-pretty-much-every-counter supplements.

a person holding a cup © Provided by Meredith Corporation

"[M]any of the compound’s expansive benefits are fanciful, and in fact, the sale of much of the product is illegal under current law," he wrote. "The Food and Drug Administration must act to make sure commercial interests don’t strip away any legitimate value that the compound might have."

a person holding a cup: Sun Sentinel/Getty Images © Sun Sentinel/Getty Images Sun Sentinel/Getty Images

Gottleib also stressed that CBD wasn't risk-free, and could cause liver damage at high doses. It took a couple of months, but the FDA is now echoing those sentiments, issuing a new consumer update about CBD and its potential health risks. It also said, flat out, that it could not conclude that CBD could be "generally recognized as safe" for use in food for humans or animals.

"The FDA is concerned that people may mistakenly believe that trying CBD 'can’t hurt.' The agency wants to be clear that we have seen only limited data about CBD’s safety and these data point to real risks that need to be considered," it wrote. "Consumer use of any CBD products should always be discussed with a healthcare provider."

Some of the CBD-related dangers mentioned by the FDA include liver injury, interactions with other medications or dietary supplements, "concern" over its connection to male reproductive toxicity (although these particular findings have, so far, only been seen in animals). The agency also said that CBD could have side effects that include both sleepiness and insomnia, gastrointestinal distress, decreased appetite, and mood changes.

"The FDA is committed to setting sound, science-based policy. The FDA is raising these safety, marketing, and labeling concerns because we want you to know what we know," the agency wrote. "We encourage consumers to think carefully before exposing themselves, their family, or their pets, to any product, especially products like CBD, which may have potential risks, be of unknown quality, and have unproven benefits."

Stay tuned... there's no way this is anybody's last word on CBD.

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