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How bad is CBD oil mislabelling in the UK?

The UK results revealed that only 38% of the products tested were within 10% of their claimed CBD content. Perhaps more concerning was that almost half of the products had more than the permitted amount of a controlled cannabinoid.

The sector is now estimated to generate £690 million in annual sales for 2021. This figure surpasses predictions made in the seminal market sizing study undertaken by the CMC in 2019 which estimated the market would be worth £526 million in 2021. 

With such an impressive growth forecast, can the industry afford such inaccuracies in its products?


The CBD in the UK study findings

The 2019 study by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) selected 30 commercially available CBD oil products, from both online and high street sources. PhytoVista Laboratories was the lab of choice for this industry report and conducted the cannabinoid testing.

The aim was to assess the quality of products in the UK market. The tests assessed the CBD content plus other monitored substances for each of the oils.

The findings revealed that the CBD oils varied in quality and legality:

Different CBD than advertised

More than 60% of the products did not have the advertised CBD content including 8 products that had more than the stated amount of CBD. 38% of the tested products had less than half of their claimed cannabidiol amount. One product – purchased from a High Street pharmacy – did not contain any CBD.

Contained controlled substances

Almost half (45%) contained a measurable amount of THC or CBN that was above the permitted threshold. THC and CBN are both controlled substances in the UK. So these products are technically illegal to sell.

Solvents and heavy metals present

Seven products contained dichloromethane and one contained the heavy metal cyclohexane in greater quantities than permitted safety limit for a food product. One sample also contained enough ethanol to be classified as an alcoholic beverage.

Why are so many CBD oil products mislabelled?

Lack of regulations

Ultimately, the lack of regulation surrounding CBD in the UK allows for such disparity of quality as found in the CMC study. There is no clear law that obligates UK manufacturers to label their products accurately or to verify their CBD content claims.

Currently, general regulations only require a CBD product to include the CBD content, the manufacturer’s details plus a list of ingredients. And of course – no medical claims. So CBD oil mislabelling will continue until regulated.

However, there is also little governance on the testing of CBD products such as accepted testing methods. Responsible CBD companies should make it their business to seek robust CBD analysis from an accredited laboratory. PhytoVista Laboratories have been awarded a certified hallmark, which is a mark of excellence for companies to put on their packaging to show they have been thoroughly tested.

Lack of UK-grown CBD

The supply chain of the CBD itself also creates inconsistency for any manufacturer, reseller or consumer of cannabidiol products.

All CBD has to be imported into the UK. This is an unnecessary burden on British CBD businesses plus it may affect sourcing a reliable crop.

Given the eco-credentials and industrial uses of hemp, many believe that the UK’s hemp-growing laws are out of date. Furthermore, the value of hemp per hectare is double that of high-quality corn. The UK is missing an opportunity by not supporting hemp growing. Both British farmers and the UK economy could be benefiting from industrial hemp.

Lack of ethics

CBD is a booming yet under-regulated market. So it isn’t surprising there are companies who will readily sell infused-olive oil and claim it contains CBD. Given that 70% of UK consumers use CBD products for therapeutic reasons, this type of consumer exploitation is particularly unethical.

Cost savings can also be made during the CBD purification process:

  • Using CO2 extraction is clean but expensive.
  • Using solvent extraction is cheaper but leaves behind contaminants.

The residual solvent testing conducted by PhytoVista Laboratories for the CMC found several products contaminants from this cheaper method. The solvents present exceeded the EU’s limit for a food product.

The Importance of CBD oil testing


Whilst CBD is known for its safety profile, taking too much CBD can produce headaches and increases in anxiety. So ensuring accuracy for its cannabidiol content is an important dosing safety factor for any CBD product.

Likewise, the amounts of allowable solvent and heavy metals present in a CBD product are there for health reasons. Heavy metals are particularly toxic, even in tiny amounts so CBD oil testing is vital.

Consumer Confidence

The UK consumer wants a product it can rely on. The CMC study plus two other studies by Dynata and YouGov showed that consumers prioritise purity and quality.

A clearly labelled product with dosing advice along with favouring British products affects purchasing decisions more so than price.

Staying legal

CBD is legal in the UK. However, THC – the cannabinoid that gives the psychoactive effects of cannabis – is not. Only CBD products containing less than 0.2% THC can be considered legal. So knowing the THC content of a CBD product is important to avoid potential prosecution.

Help your CBD product stand out

Become a brand trusted by the consumer by demonstrating your commitment to quality:

  • Label your products as accurately as you can to avoid CBD oil mislabelling issues.
  • Provide a recommended dosing regime that allows the consumer to safely find the right dose for them.
  • Obtain a Certificate of CBD Analysis to proudly display on your website. Stand by your ethics and use sustainable sources of CBD.

Think from your customer’s point of view: what would help them choose your brand over a competitor?

Why choose PhytoVista Laboratories as your CBD testing lab?

PhytoVista Laboratories is a reputable and accredited UK testing lab. We have a passion for what we do and use our expertise to support all our clients from consumers, distributors to manufacturers.

  • State-of-the-art facility based in Frome, Somerset.
  • Range of analytical tests including cannabinoid profiling.
  • Operate to strict quality systems and methodologies giving you traceability.
  • Our quality customer service and fast turnaround support all aspects of the CBD and Hemp Industry.

Get a quote for your product’s CBD analytical testing with PhytoVista Laboratories today.