By Jean Lotus
The U.S. Hemp Authority announced this week it has released Certification Standard 3.0 for food and topical uses of CBD and hemp products, an update of an earlier standard released in 2019.
The standards apply to CBD/hemp edibles and topicals including food, dietary supplements, personal care products, pet supplements and products based on hemp fiber.
The certification process, derived from “lessons learned” and “significant public input,” is meant as an industry guideline to provide high standards, best practices and self-regulation, the Lexington, KY, based organization said.
Hemp farmers, manufacturers and sellers have been frustrated by conflicting and changing signals from the US. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, said Marielle Weintraub, the non-profit organization’s president.
“There’s federal regulatory confusion, which is ever-changing and constantly gray, and now rules that are being passed state by state, so we now have to follow individual states where we operate and sell into,” Weintraub told Let’s Talk Hemp.
“That’s why we think a self-regulatory organization is so important, to create and enforce stand-alone regulations and a standard,” she added. The goal is to develop consumer credibility and transparency that will push the industry forward together, Weintraub said.
The new standards closely follow existing guidance for botanicals developed by the American Herbal Products Association, which include best agricultural and manufacturing practices. That’s because the AHPA standards are free-to-access and much clearer than the federal rules, Weintraub said.
The streamlined new document has been reduced to 22 pages from 80 pages and is meant to apply to all “high quality operations, regardless of their size,” the organization said.
What hasn’t changed is the organization’s commitment to non-genetically modified (GMO) products and not permitting synthetic CBD, terpenes or other hemp products. The new standard also mirrors the FDA’s regulation that hemp packaging and marketing cannot make unfounded medical claims.
Certification is performed by FoodChainID, a Deerfield, Ill.,-based third-party auditor, and costs around $1,400 for a facilities audit, but about $750 for a brand owner who can trace supply chain to a certified supplier. Products cost about $300 per SKU to certify, with bulk pricing for more products.
Growers are certified at different pricing tiers depending if they are growing for flower or fiber, Weintraub said. Hemp businesses can also “stack” their certifications, to simultaneously audit for USDA Organic or other categories.
The COVID-19 emergency and a presidential leadership change have slowed down the FDA’s federal guidance for the hemp industry, causing U.S. hemp businesses to operate in uncertainty. The agency is also hampered by an internal rule that cannabidiol, which is considered a drug in anti-epilepsy medicine Epidiolex, cannot simultaneously be ruled as a dietary supplement under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
“Eventually the FDA will get their act together and issue guidance,” on CBD and hemp, said Weintraub. “Until then we are creating a standard for the hemp industry that was written by the hemp industry.”
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Jean Lotus is a Colorado-based award-winning journalist and hempreneur who writes about the American West and sustainable food and technologies.