LOS ANGELES, Calif. (FOX 11) - A joint investigation between FOX 11 Los Angeles and the Dr. Oz show has produced alarming results when it comes to what's really inside unregulated CBD products being sold around the nation.
After FOX 11 and Dr. Oz had professional testing done on more than a dozen CBD products purchased by our separate teams, our investigation found one CBD product was contaminated with a deadly strain of E. Coli bacteria, two samples contained potentially dangerous levels of ethanol, five samples had no detectable traces of CBD, and only one of the products actually contained what was claimed in its labeling.
CBD, or cannabidiol for short, is one of the most prominent components of the hemp plant. Unlike marijuana, CBD has little or no THC, the psychoactive part of the plant that gets you high.
Sellers are infusing CBD into almost everything you can imagine, and it's being marketed as a miracle cure all. Proponents say CBD has all the benefits of medical marijuana without the intoxicating side effects, able to help with pain, anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy, even cancer and heart disease.
Sales have been exploding, but there is almost no government regulation, which can open consumers up to the unknown.
So what are you really getting when buying CBD?
In an undercover investigation, FOX 11 joined forces with Dr. Oz to purchase CBD at different locations in Los Angeles and New Jersey to have it professionally tested, and the results were startling.
"This investigation is going to be eye opening because it's going to give us a glimpse into an industry with little regulation," Dr. Oz said. "I'm excited to partner with FOX 11 to pull back the curtain on what you could really be getting when you purchase CBD products."
While Dr. Oz's team purchased various CBD products in New Jersey for testing, FOX 11 went undercover to several different locations across Los Angeles to purchase our own CBD products for testing.
We purchased a mix of CBD infused products, ranging from edibles, to liquids and creams.
FOX 11 dropped the products off at Nascient, a premium Cannabis testing lab in Chatsworth that was also in the process of testing the products Dr. Oz's team had bought.
Less than 24 hours later, the results were in.
Five of the products had no detectable levels of CBD in them, despite their labeling.
"If you have a consumer that's trying to take it medicinally, then it's basically snake oil," said Dr. Leah Shaffer, Chief Operating Officer of Nascient.
Only one product had what it claimed. Two other products were close to what they claimed. Four products had significantly less CBD than advertised, and one product had more CBD than advertised.
Some of the products had major health concerns.
One of them was a CBD lemonade shot FOX 11 purchased in Hollywood. Testing showed it contained no CBD, but it did test positive for potentially deadly levels of ethanol.
CBD gummy bears purchased by the Dr. Oz team also tested positive for dangerous levels of ethanol.
But it was CBD gel caps brought into the lap by a concerned customer that had the most startling results.
They did have CBD in them, but they also tested positive for a strain of E. Coli that produces the deadly bacteria known as shiga toxin.
"Not only is the consumer not getting any medicinal value form it, they're actually introducing toxins into their system," Dr. Shaffer said.
"As you know, a lot of people take CBD because they have cancer," said pediatrician Dr. Pedram Salimpour. "The last thing you want to do to an immunocompromised person is introduce a whole bunch of microbes."
Testing showed those same gel caps also had almost 3 milligrams of THC per cap, when it's supposed to have zero THC.
"3 milligrams is a lot, 3 milligrams is enough to get a grown man or grown woman high," said Dr. Salimpour. "A child that weights ten or twenty kilos would definitely get very high for a very long time with that amount of THC."
That can be a huge problem for parents who give CBD to their children in the belief that it will cure their ailments.
"This stuff is packaged and designed to look like medicine," Dr. Salimpour said. "When you buy medicine, you expect clinical precision, but unfortunately, the lab results show something very, very different."
And that's why Dr. Salimpour says even though there are good actors in the CBD marketplace, this joint investigation shows buying CBD can come down to a roll of the dice with your money, and more importantly, your health.
"There's no way for a consumer to know that it has failed these tests," he said. "That's why it's a crap shoot, that's why it's the wild wild west, cause there's nobody regulating production or sale of CBD products today."
The National Cannabis Industry Association released the following statement in response to the findings:
'There are 47 states that allow CBD use in some form.
Those states heavily regulate CBD, and operators acting in compliance with state laws show very little inconsistency in their products. However, there are a number of products available nationally which claim to contain CBD that are not produced in compliance with state regulatory programs, and there can be quite a bit of inconsistency in those specific products.
It is important for the federal government to change its policies so that states can more effectively regulate CBD products in accordance with recognized industry standards without interference, and in the meantime consumers should exercise due diligence when choosing which products to use.'
In response to our investigation the National Hemp Association sent FOX 11 the following statement:
'Currently inconsistencies happen with CBD products due to a lack of standards and regulations. While some on the industry are working towards the creation of standards, the final authority on how CBD products will be regulated will come from the FDA.
These regulations will be vitally important for consumers, not only to ensure that what is in the product is what is on the labels, but also for consistency in dosing. Currently a consumer may be taking a certain dose of CBD and obtaining a particular result. Should the benefits suddenly change the consumer can't know for certain if something has changed within themselves or if the product is no longer exactly the same as it was previously.
It is imperative that the FDA quickly develops a legal and reasonable regulatory path for CBD products to protect both consumers and the industry.'