The Unknowns of CBD-Infused Foods

Have you noticed many products hitting market shelves recently—like coffee, beer, candy, and even dog treats—all infused with a different type of ingredient, CBD? The CBD market has expanded way past topical creams and oils and is now finding its way into food and other treats. 

CBD is a naturally occurring ingredient found within the cannabis plant. Visit our article What is CBD? to learn more.  

CBD in foods is an unknown territory for both manufacturers, consumers, and even regulators. Current legislation is pressing the FDA to make these decisions to ensure the food safety of these products. We reached out to Dr. Norbert Kaminski, Director for the Institute for Integrative Toxicology at Michigan State University, to provide his expertise on the subject.  

Is it safe to be putting CBD in food? 

Dr. Kaminski: “That’s a very good question. So ‘safe’ ultimately is determined by your exposure and how much you consume. Now, to my knowledge, I don’t know of any group that has done expenses or toxicology on CBD. For me to be able to say if this is safe or not is very difficult. Ultimately, it depends on the purity of CBD: who has extracted it, and how pure is it, and also the amount that people are being exposed to. Because you can buy oils and things like that, which you can add to all sorts of products, so there’s no telling how much people are putting into their foods or their drinks and so forth. 

“You have to keep in perspective that people historically have been exposed to CBD from smoking cannabis and the amounts that are present are relatively low compared to what people are adding into food and drinks. Now, they’re buying oils and can add presumably as much as they like. The exposure level is going to be much different and the route of exposure is going to be very different, whether you inhale it or by smoking cannabis versus taking it orally.” 

What are the benefits for CBD as an ingredient in food? 

Dr. Kaminski: “I think the main benefit ascribed to CBD as an ingredient in foods and topical creams has primarily been as an anti-inflammatory agent, and there is fairly large literature at least in animal studies showing that CBD does have anti-inflammatory properties. I think that is a primary reason why people are using CBD in creams and foods. Certainly, if you followed the lay press these days and the internet you would think it’s a ‘miracle drug,’ and I think a lot of that is hype. Also, you’re probably aware that CBD was approved by the FDA for the treatment of certain types of epilepsy, for medical purposes. In terms of food, I think even food probably is questionable.” 

Is this safe for children to consume?

Dr. Kaminski: “I would not encourage parents to give children any of these products. I don’t think we have enough information around this.”

Are there any FDA regulations on CBD in foods yet? Why or why not? 

Dr. Kaminski: “I’m not aware of any regulations yet. I don’t think any companies are adding it as a technical ingredient in food–I may be wrong about that. Typically, supplements are regulated differently than food ingredients. Clearly, if the FDA met several weeks ago, they are aware of what’s happening and are looking to see how they are going to regulate this, if it becomes an ingredient in food. I suspect some of the major food companies have had discussions on whether they want to make products with CBD in them and if that were to be the case they would probably have to go through the regular procedures—one would be to have these things first tested—to make sure that whatever they’re adding would be safe for human consumption. 

“We are still waiting for the scientific evidence to support how these products are being used and whether they are truly beneficial to what people think they are using them for.” 

What future do you see happening for CBD in food? 

Dr. Kaminski: “I think that, in my opinion, the general public will drive this, assuming that CBD is found to be safe at levels that products would contain these. If there’s a market for it, I’m sure there will be companies that will make this. If it’s all hype, and they find there really isn’t a benefit, then I think that it will probably run its course and people will stop buying products with CBD. If people find it beneficial and if it is safe as it is intended to be used within these products, then I think we will see ground for that.” 

What should people keep in mind regarding CBD? 

“I think it’s kind of the ‘Wild West’ out there right now in terms of how much CBD people are consuming. I think that there will be more research done on CBD, especially more general toxicology, because of how people are using products that have CBD in them. The thing that worries me a little is that a lot of people have this assumption that if a little is good then a little bit more might be even better, and I worry how much people are being exposed to.” 

With the CBD-infused foods market growing rapidly, it is important for consumers to stay informed on this topic and their food safety. CBD-infused foods will not get consumers ‘high,’ but parents should not give these products to children. There is still no clear regulatory framework for these products, yet.