CBD inspection highlights significant mislabelling in Portuguese market

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

ira evva | Getty
ira evva | Getty

Related tags Cbd study

A study of CBD products available in Portugal reveals significant discrepancies between label claims and actual cannabinoid compositions, highlighting the need for "stringent regulation and standardised testing protocols".

Among sampled beverages, none contained detectable cannabinoids, despite suggestive packaging. Similarly, oils often differed from the declared cannabinoid compositions, with some containing significantly higher CBD concentrations than labelled.

“These inconsistencies raise serious concerns regarding consumer safety and informed decision-making,” wrote the authors from Universidade da Beira Interior, Portugal. “Moreover, our findings underscore the need for stringent regulation and standardised testing protocols to ensure the accuracy and safety of cannabis-based products.”

Cannabinoids of interest

The two most widely discussed cannabinoids in Europe are cannabidiol (CBD), known for its significant non-addictive but therapeutic value, and ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a conrolled psychoactive compound.

Other main cannabinoids of interest are cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), cannabichromene (CBC), tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA-A), cannabidiol acid (CBDA), cannabigerol acid (CBGA), tetrahydrocannabivarin acid (THCVA), delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (8-THC), cannabidivarin (CBGV), and cannabinovarin (CBNV) 

The legal setting

The legalisation of cannabis remains a highly controversial topic, with different countries presenting different control measures, although its use and legalisation for medical purposes has been increasing.

Several US states and countries around Europe, such as Italy, Israel, Germany, UK, and the Netherlands present laws and programs allowing for the medical use of cannabis.

In Portugal, pharmaceuticals, preparations, and other substances based on cannabis are legal as long as they obey the guidelines and prerequisites associated with the cultivation process, preparation, and introduction into the market place.

Due to the legislation and the easy acquisition of new cannabis-based products, these products have spread enormously and can be found in beverages, herbal samples, oils, cosmetics, etc.

However, the authors of the current study noted it is unknown whether all these products undergo rigorous control regarding which cannabinoids are present and their concentration.

"This lack of control may constitute a public health problem, as cannabinoid concentrations can vary in marketed products", the report stated.

The study

For the analysis, a high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with a photodiode array detector (HPLC-DAD) was employed (model 1290 Agilent Technologies, Soquímica, Lisbon, Portugal).

Different commercial samples (31 samples) of cannabis-based products obtained from street shops and pharmacies were analysed. Products included six beverages (three beers, two ice teas, and one carbonated beverage), 10 oils, six herbal samples, and nine semi-solid forms (cosmetic products). 

The results obtained for the composition and cannabinoid content in the samples revealed most of the studied products were mislabelled.

In the six beverages analysed no cannabinoids were detected. Upon examination of the labels, the manufacturers did not describe the presence of Cannabis sativa​ extract. However, the packaging’s imagery suggested otherwise, with the word cannabis mentioned several times.

Concerning the oils, the expected composition according to the product manufacturer for sample oil #4 was 20% CBD, plus other cannabinoids (CBN, CBC, CBDA, CBG, CBGA, and CBCA). The results revealed the product contained 16.13% CBD, and no other cannabinoids.

In sample oil #1, compounds CBD, CBG, and CBN were detected, with concentrations of 7.50%, 5.80%, and 0.06%, respectively. The expected concentrations according to the label were 5% CBD and 5% CBG, and 0% CBN. The researchers noted this was a significantly higher concentration of CBD than labelled. 

In oil #10, the detected concentration of CBD was 5.02%, while the label indicated a concentration of 10%. Sample oil #3, was labelled as having a concentration of 10% CBD but a concentration of just 1.82% was found.

Four of the sample oils did not provide detailed information about composition and concentration. Three of them mentioned CBD on the packaging but cannabinoids were not detected in sample oils. 

In one sample, CBD (0.29%) and THCA-A (0.07%) were detected, while the label only mentioned the presence of CBD.

The authors stated their findings highlight the “urgent need for rigorous testing and quality control measures in the realm of cannabis products”.

Source: Molecules


"Characterisation of Cannabis-Based Products Marketed for Medical and Non-Medical Use Purchased in Portugal"

Authors: Pires, B.; Oliveira, P.; Simão, A.Y.; Reis, J.; Ramos, S.; Duarte, A.P.; Margalho, C.; Rosado, T.; Barroso, M.; Gallardo, E.

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