Adding CBD to ice cream might just be the best idea since putting cookie dough chunks into plain old vanilla. At least, that’s the thinking behind Ben & Jerry’s newest (not-yet-named) flavor, which infuses the non-psychoactive, THC-free element of the cannabis plant into its legendary pints. The possibility of seeing the ingredient land in your local freezer aisle, however, is up for debate. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now hearing the pleas of 120 cannabis companies vying for the ingredient to be legalized as both a dietary supplement and a food additive.
The purpose of today’s FDA public hearing for cannabis-led businesses and advocates to “obtain scientific data and information about the safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labeling, and sale of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds,” reads an official statement from the agency. As The New York Times points out, the FDA has a tendency to overlook the inclusion of CBD in some edible products (CBD chocolate and gummy bears are both on the market).
Still, the FDA’s seal of approval means something to consumers searching for safe, government-endorsed products. The agency provides an air of legitimacy—one that members of the FDA aren’t yet willing to grant to the buzzy ingredient. “I don’t think that CBD is doing anything approximating what people are purporting is its magic quality,” Scott Gottlieb, MD, a former FDA commissioner, said earlier this year. “It’s a real safety issue here. There are risks of accumulated effects. It’s not a completely benign compound.”
The verdict on CBD is still largely, well, TBD, and there’s no definitive timeline on the FDA’s decision. That means that companies interested in lacing their foods with the cannabinoid—like Ben & Jerry’s and Mondelez (the makers of Oreos and Chips Ahoy)—might be holding production for quite some time before the FDA reaches its verdict. “We’re getting ready, but we obviously want to stay within what is legal and play it the right way,” Dirk Van De Put, CEO of Mondelez previously told CNBC.
For now, Amy Abernethy, MD, PhD, the principal deputy commissioner and acting CIO of the FDA, tweeted a reminder that the only CBD-contain product currently approved by the FDA is an epilepsy medication. “Given the rapid expansion of the market, timely clarification of the path forward is critical, but it’s our responsibility to ensure that the regulatory path is scientifically sound and in the interest of public health,” she wrote.
Other than one prescription drug product to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy, the FDA has not approved any other CBD-containing products. We want consumers to be aware that there is only limited available information about CBD, including about its effects on the body.
— Dr. Amy Abernethy (@DrAbernethyFDA) May 23, 2019
Until the FDA paves the aforementioned path to legalization (or stricter regulation) with the intel gleaned form CBD business owners today, we’ll all just have to stick with the classics. Bring on the Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey, and Phish Food. For now, ice cream flavors with names like Sugar High, Baked Like a Birthday Cake, and Puff, Puff, Pistachio will just have to wait.
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