Why has the FDA not approved Cannabis products? what Products Should I avoid?

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the one of the oldest federal level consumer protection agencies in the United States of America. Until 1930 the name was largely unheard of, but in the modern day it has even become a household phrase as well as an inseparable part of our lives as consumers. The FDA has changed over the years as a result of influence by social, political, legal, scientific, and economic changes.

The FDA is in charge of protecting us from harm by preventing companies and unscrupulous people from taking advantage of us by various means. When we refer to the safety that the FDA aims to bring to the public we mean that they work to ensure the safety, efficacy, and security of many different kinds of products ranging from food and drug all the way into things like cosmetics!

Cannabidiol, or, CBD is largely new to the scene in the United States and when something is new, we as humans, innately and wisely treat it with caution. Countries such as Canada have already legalized CBD and other varying forms of Cannabis. In the future, we believe, we will see the United States also following suit as the efficacy and usefulness of CBD is already starting to be proven in varying ways.

One such form that has already been approved by the FDA is Epidiolex, which contains CBD and is used primarily in the treatment of seizures. For many it was already believed to help with seizures even before its approval. However, the lack of professional peer reviewed research studies has slowed the FDA’s willingness to openly accept the substance, so in a manner of speaking CBD is like "snake oil" to the FDA, unproven and unsafe until evidence and research supports otherwise.

Just because the FDA has not completely approved of cannabis products does not mean they are not safe or that they are illegal. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 or better known as the 2018 Farm Bill which approved the production of hemp as well as removed hemp and hemp seeds from the DEA's schedule of controlled substances has helped matters, but the political and social movement has stalled at the federal level. Many states now are tasked with creating rules and regulations for industrial hemp. Industrial Hemp is defined as cannabis with less than 0.3 percent Delta 9 THC. Delta 9 THC is one of the forms of molecules in cannabis that is recognized as a psychoactive substance. Many States, however, including Florida and New York have already legalized it. While slow, this political movement at the state levels is part of what the 2018 Farm Bill intended. Once most states have approved regulations in place, perhaps that will put more pressure on the FDA to act more swiftly.

We are also NOT saying that all CBD products are created equal. There are indeed bad CBD products that are not quality controlled and sold by unscrupulous sellers online. Think of it like buying it from the guy on the corner vs. from a local licensed retail store. We strongly recommend only purchasing from sellers that can provide you with a Certificate of Analysis (COA). A COA is something that is obtained from a third-party lab that tests the product for various elements and molecules. In Florida a retailer is required to be licensed and maintain a Hemp Food Establishment Permit. Florida has strict regulations that require all manufacturers to test each batch of hemp extract they produce. Releafy and other reputable sellers will make sure all their suppliers adhere to strict standards and that their products have a scannable barcode or QRC to the COA. The internet address of a website where batch information may be obtained, the expiration date, and number of milligrams per serving.

The FDA is not only slow at approving products but also slow at removing products from its approved list. Here are some items that you should watch out for and maybe should be more regulated like CBD.

  1. Partially Hydrogenated Oils are used to make some products solid at room temperature and create trans fats and can increase your probability of getting heart disease

  2. Brominated Vegeatable Oil is used to enhance the citrus flavor of some food and drink items, most notably Mountain Dew, a popular drink among gamers and others. The issue with this is that is believed to block receptors in our bodies and other medical conditions. It has been banned in other countries but is still approved by the FDA.

  3. Olean is an additive in many fat-free foods that can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb vitamins. This is one thing our advanced bodies doesn’t know what to do with and can lead to bowel movement issues.

  4. It is believed that a chemical largely used as Caramel Coloring, called Methylimidazole can increase your risk of cancer, but is one of the most used food coloring in the world.

  5. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone or RBGH is given to cows to increase production. The human body already is not meant to ingest dairy from cows, but this just makes it worse. According to the American Cancer Society it can increase the risk of cancer in humans. This is banned in the EU, Canada, and other counties.

  6. Butylated Hydroxytoluene can be found in some cereals in the US but is banned in the UK and other countries. Notable companies such as General Mills and Kellogg’s has pledged to find alternatives and remove it from their products.

  7. Butylated Hydroxynisole can be found in instant mashed potato, cereal, ships, and beer. It can also be found in rubber and wax food packaging, which is much less appetizing and is also considered a human carcinogen in other countries including the EU.

  8. Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 is thought to cause hyperactivity in Children and is banned in Norway and Sweden. So, the next time your kid wants skittles, it might not just be the sugar you should be worried about.

  9. Some bread products contain Azodicarbonamide a chemical used to make yoga mats. Yeah, no of us want to be eating yoga mats and shoe soles. It has been linked to respiratory issues and you won’t find it in countries in Europe, Australia and Singapore.

  10. We recommend eating organic pork and beef to avoid harmful chemicals and growth hormones such as Zeranol, Trenbolone, Acetate, and Ractopamine. Ractopamine is believed to affect the cardiovascular system and potentially create elevated heart rates. The other growth hormones are believed to increase the risk of breast and prostate cancer.

  11. Sodium Nitrate is added to many meats to prolong their shelf life. A fun fact is that bright red or bleached white appearance is also not natural for your meat but we will leave that for another list. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or NIOSH for short, ingestion of sodium nitrate can cause many issues including abdominal pain, convulsions, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing.

  12. Monosodium Glutamate is another food additive that is meant to prolong shelf life and it can also cause neurologic problems.

  13. Potassium Bromate is used to help with the rising of bread and to improve dough quality but studies show it is linked to oxidative damage in tissues and red blood cells.

  14. Acesulfame Potassium has become popular has our culture went through a period where we were looking for Sugar-Free and Fat-Free foods. These food products are often marketed as healthy alternatives but beware. Long-term ingestion of this artificial sweetener is believed to cause neurologic and metabolic alterations in the body. Many studies have found diet drinks and other artificial sweeteners to find links with type 2 diabetes and many speculate it can disrupt blood sugar control and insulin production.

  15. There are more products you should avoid for healthy living so we recommend always doing your own research.

In Conclusion

While we cannot say with 100% certainty that CBD will help you with your condition or issues because the FDA has not approved it, we however are confident that if you try it, you will like it. CBD has provided relief for many, and it can do the same for you. You can find many people all over the world and the internet that believe in the benefits of CBD. Many celebrities have also openly supported it and are consumers of it. Just because the FDA has approved or has not approved something does not mean truly mean it is safe or not. It only means the FDA has not yet been able to determine it. Once more research has been made available, we are confident the FDA will approve more products in the future. You must be careful because some unscrupulous people will use celebrity names to sell bad product, usually without the celebrities knowing. We always recommend doing your research and most importantly be able to trust your source. Never buy a CBD product from a seller that will not show you a Certificate of Analysis (COA) and for products that do not have information clearly marked, or labeled, on the packaging.


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Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Food Safety. (2020, July). HEMP FOOD ESTABLISHMENT GUIDANCE. Hemp Food Establishment Guide.

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Written By Michael Greger M.D. FACLM on March 28th, 2019. (2019, March 28). Cancer-causing caramel color.

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