A Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) survey of CBD (Cannabidol) products on sale in Ireland has found the "majority of products" breached food laws while some posed "potential safety risks" to consumers.
Researchers found that the level of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive compound in cannabis – in 37 per cent of products could "significantly exceed" European Food Safety Authority safety limits and that the "implicated batches" were being recalled.
The level of CBD in more than 40 per cent of samples was found to vary significantly from the declared amount, while half of products made misleading claims including being lactose free, gluten free and non-GMO along with “unauthorised health claims”, according to the study.
Unlike other derivatives of the cannabis plant, CBD is not psychoactive and is mostly legal throughout Europe.
It is widely sold in Ireland, including by pharmacies and health food chains such as Holland and Barrett.
The FSAI said its research revealed some consumers were being “grossly misled” while others were being “put at risk by the ingestion of relatively high levels of THC”.
It noted that “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”.
In its recall notification, the FSAI called on all businesses selling the implicated batches to “immediately remove them from sale” and contact their supervising environmental health office.
However, while it noted that some CBD products contained unsafe THC levels, it said there were “no immediate dangers associated with the consumption of these products”.
Under EU regulations plants containing CBD may be grown as long at their THC content is less than 0.2 per cent.
In 2019 gardaí carried out a number of raids at CBD shops and cafes as part of a crackdown on the sale of the substance.
The department of health subsequently said it hoped to amend legislation to permit CBD products like those seized in the raids.
JP O’Brien, whose shop Little Collins CBD dispensary in Galway was raided last year, said the FSAI had employed a new method of testing for detecting THC traces without consulting businesses selling the product in Ireland.
The products sold in Mr O’Brien’s store were listed by the FSAI on Thursday, along with 13 other brands, as batches containing high levels of THC.
“This is the first anyone in Ireland has heard of this method of testing using micrograms over milligrams,” said Mr O’Brien. “There is a clear disconnect between what the FSAI says is standard and what others are practising.”
“There exists clear and substantial confusion between FSAI testing methods, accepted practice and indeed prior communication from said Government body. It is grossly unjust to punish the end user and the retailer for a lack of clear framework and governance in the emerging cannabis industry in Ireland.”
Proponents of CBD say it helps with anxiety, inflammation, pain and other ailments.