Don’t expect to find a new Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor containing the word “cannabidiol” anytime soon.
However, federal regulators are making it clear that CBD-infused munchies won’t be on store shelves soon.
Ice cream isn’t the only thing food companies want to infuse with CBD.
The Carl’s Jr. hamburger chain made headlines in April when it rolled out a CBD burger in Colorado — where recreational marijuana use is legal — during the weekend of 4/20, the national holiday for cannabis users.
Dirk Van de Put, chief executive officer of Mondelez, the international company that makes Oreo cookies and other snack foods, told CNBC in May the company is “getting ready” to produce CBD-infused food, pending government approval.
A few weeks later, Ben & Jerry’s made its CBD-infused announcement.
“You probably already know that we’re fans of all things groovy — think: Half Baked and Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies,” the company said in a statement. “So it’s no surprise that we can’t wait to get into the latest food trend: cannabidiol, or CBD. We are open to bringing CBD-infused ice cream to your freezer as soon as it’s legalized at the federal level.”
But while the 2018 Farm Bill legalized CBD oil derived from the hemp plant, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t yet approved its use as a food additive.
The FDA says that’s because CBD has already been approved as a drug to treat pediatric seizures (Epidiolex in June 2018), it cannot legally be added to food or dietary substances.
“Although the law says that FDA can issue regulations to create new exceptions to these statutory provisions, FDA has never issued a regulation like that for any substance,” Dr. Norman Sharpless, the FDA’s acting commissioner of food and drugs, said at a May 31 hearingTrusted Source where the agency took 10 hours of public testimony on products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds.
“So, if we were thinking about doing that for a substance like CBD, it would be new terrain for the FDA,” he said.
Questions also remain about the quality and purity of CBD products, including whether some contain more than the trace amounts of the psychoactive THC allowed by law.
“There are real risks associated with both those substances and critical questions remain about the safety of their widespread use in foods and dietary supplements, as well as other consumer products,” said Sharpless.
“And given the new interest in marketing cannabis products across the range of areas FDA regulates, we will need to carefully evaluate how all these pieces fit together in terms of how consumers might access cannabis products.”
“Nowhere is this truer than with CBD,” he added. “While we have seen an explosion of interest in products containing CBD, there is still much that we don’t know.”
Still, interest in CBD — touted for health benefits that may include anti-inflammatory properties, pain relief, and reducing blood pressure — remains high among food companies and chefs.
Baum noted that food is a good medium for masking the “hemp-y” flavor of CBD oil, although Cannovia also sells a flavorless, refined CBD powder that can be added to drinks.
When the National Restaurant Association asked its member chefs to identify the top food trend for 2019, 77 percent said cannabis/CBD-infused drinks — the top response — and 76 percent said cannabis/CBD-infused food.
Ben & Jerry’s urged customers to submit comments to the FDA, which also has formed an internal agency working group to “explore potential pathways for dietary supplements and/or conventional foods containing CBD to be lawfully marketed; including a consideration of what statutory or regulatory changes might be needed and what the impact of such marketing would be on the public health.”