Cannabidiol (CBD) in Food

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical found in marijuana. CBD does not usually contain the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) --- the ingredient that causes the “high” associated with marijuana use. However, CBD products have been found to be contaminated with THC and other chemicals. While CBD is being studied as a treatment for a wide range of conditions ranging from Parkinson's disease to diabetes, research supporting the drug's benefits is still limited. Currently, the only CBD product approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a prescription oil called Epidiolex used in the treatment of certain severe epilepsies. Otherwise, CBD is unregulated and these products are not routinely tested for safety and purity in the U.S.

CBD is typically formulated as oil, but is also distributed as an extract, a vaporized liquid, and an oil-based capsule. It is commonly infused with products such as food, drinks, and even beauty products. Though it's often well-tolerated, CBD can cause side effects such as dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness and fatigue. CBD can also interact with medications such as blood thinners.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) typically encounters CBD through routine inspections of retail food establishments and food manufacturers, and through complaints. Common items ADPH encounters include baked goods, coffee, and beer. Additionally, ADPH may receive questions from food manufacturers and retail establishments asking if they can add CBD to foods manufactured and packaged for resale.

Currently, CBD is not Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA, as addressed in the following statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.:

“Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims can put patients and consumers at risk. These products have not been shown to be safe or effective, and deceptive marketing of unproven treatments may keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases. Additionally, because they are not evaluated by the FDA, there may be other ingredients that are not disclosed, which may be harmful.”

Although some states have enacted legislation that allows CBD in food, the practice remains illegal in Alabama. Based on the Public Notice issued by the Attorney General’s Office, most recently updated August 14, 2019, ADPH’s position has been to issue a "Do Not Sell – Food Condemnation Order" when it discovers food that includes CBD in ADPH-permitted food establishments. Food service establishments are allowed to sell CBD (provided it is of the legal strength), and customers are allowed to add their own separately purchased CBD to food or beverages they have purchased.

ADPH has not taken action against out-of-state food manufacturers that operate where CBD may be allowed as a food additive because the manufacturer is not under Alabama jurisdiction.

See the ADPH Position on Enforcement of CBD in Foods for more information.