Agency says it has seen limited data on effects of cannabis derivative; risk of liver injury is cited.

By Inti Pacheco Updated Nov. 27, 2019 2:16 pm ET

The Food and Drug Administration said this week that it can’t vouch for the safety of food and other products containing CBD, because of limited information about the cannabis-derived compound’s effects on the body.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a nonpsychoactive compound found in marijuana and hemp that treats pain but doesn’t induce a high. CBD-infused oils, food, drinks and other products manufactured by small companies are widely available online and in stores.

An agency statement on Monday listed several potential health risks that studies of CBD have uncovered, including liver injury, harmful interactions with other drugs and changes in mood.

“We remain concerned that some people wrongly think that the myriad of CBD products on the market, many of which are illegal, have been evaluated by the FDA and determined to be safe, or that trying CBD ‘can’t hurt,’ ” said Amy Abernethy, principal deputy commissioner for the FDA.

The agency also cited concerns about unsafe manufacturing practices and marketing strategies that might deceive consumers in the CBD market.

Steve Mister, chief executive for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group for supplement companies, issued a statement disputing the FDA’s announcement, saying it was unnecessarily alarming consumers. Mr. Mister said the agency lacks any plans to address the concerns it underlines.

“It’s time for FDA to announce a legal pathway to market for these CBD-containing supplements and to commence meaningful enforcement against products that flout category-wide requirements for dietary supplements,” he said.

The FDA has so far only approved one prescription drug containing CBD, a medication used to treat two rare forms of severe epilepsy. The agency said it is working to answer questions related to the safety and quality of other products containing CBD.

“Many unanswered questions and data gaps about CBD toxicity exist, and some of the available data raise serious concerns about potential harm from CBD,” the FDA said.

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