Late last month , the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warning letters to four companies for selling unapproved cannabidiol (CBD) products that are intended for use in food-producing animals.
As is standard protocol for FDA communications, the warning letters address these companies’ structure and function claims which equate to marketing the products as drugs. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act, any product intended to treat a disease or have a therapeutic or medical use, and any product intended to affect the structure or function of the body of humans or animals, is a drug. The warning letters addressed unauthorized marketing, including claims that refer to helping “farm animals with stress, anxiety, pain, inflammation, injuries...” and providing the animals with “support to help manage normal stress, promote a calming effect, maintain a healthy gut, maintain a normal and balanced behavior, maintain healthy joints, and maintain a normal inflammatory response.”
According to the FDA, CBD products for food-producing animals raise concerns regarding the safety of the human food derived from those animals. Although the FDA briefly addressed a lack of data regarding the safety of the CBD products for the animals themselves, their chief concern was protecting the human food supply from unsafe drug residues in the edible tissues of animals sold for slaughter.
A very real concern, and one not addressed by the FDA, but which has been expressed by veterinarians is that owners of food-producing animals may delay or avoid veterinary treatment for animals and instead utilize CDB products based on the structure and function claims made by the manufacturer. Such activity could cause increased farm animal suffering, potential liability on the farmers for improper medication practices, as well as potential liability for CBD manufacturers for violation of the FD&C Act and consumer class action lawsuits.