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Human gut microbes could make processed foods healthier

Washington University/Getty Human gut microbes might break down a potentially harmful chemical found in processed foods

Human gut microbes might break down a potentially harmful chemical found in processed foods, according to new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Eating processed foods such as breads, cereals and sodas is associated with negative health effects including insulin resistance and obesity.

Scientists at the university have identified a specific human gut bacterial strain that breaks down the chemical fructoselysine and turns it into harmless byproducts. Fructoselysine is in a class of chemicals called Maillard Reaction Products that during food processing. Some of these chemicals have been linked to harmful health effects. The study’s findings suggest it might be possible to use this knowledge of the gut microbiome to develop healthier, more nutritious processed foods.

The study, published in the Oct. 9 edition of the journal Cell Host & Microbe, was conducted in mice that were raised under sterile conditions, given known collections of human gut microbes and fed diets containing processed food ingredients.

Jeffrey I. Gordon, M.D., director of the Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology“This study gives us a deeper view of how components of our modern diets are metabolized by gut microbes, including the breakdown of components that may be unhealthy for us,” said Jeffrey I. Gordon, M.D., director of the Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology. “We now have a way to identify these human gut microbes and how they metabolize harmful food chemicals into innocuous byproducts.”

Human gut microbial communities see foods as collections of chemicals. Some of these chemical compounds have beneficial effects on gut microbes living as well as on human health, contributing to healthy growth, immune function, and bone and brain development in babies. But modern food processing can generate chemicals that have been associated with inflammation linked to diabetes and heart disease. The researchers are interested in understanding the complex interactions between human gut microbes and the chemicals that are commonly consumed as part of a typical American diet.

In the new study, the researchers showed that a specific bacterium. Collinsella intestinalis, breaks down the chemical fructoselysine into components that are harmless.

“Fructoselysine is common in processed food, including ultra-pasteurized milk, pasta, chocolate and cereals,” said first author Ashley R. Wolf, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in Gordon’s lab. “High amounts of fructoselysine and similar chemicals in the blood have been linked to diseases of aging, such as diabetes and atherosclerosis.”

When fed a diet containing high amounts of fructoselysine, mice harboring Collinsella intestinalis in their gut microbial communities showed an increase in the abundance of this bacteria as well as an increase in the gut microbial communities’ ability to break down fructoselysine into harmless byproducts.

“This specific bacterial strain thrives in these circumstances,” Gordon said. “And as it increases in abundance, fructoselysine is metabolized more efficiently.

“The new tools and knowledge gained from this initial study could be used to develop healthier, more nutritious foods as well as design potential strategies to identify and harness certain types of gut bacteria shown to process potentially harmful chemicals into innocuous ones,” he said. “A corollary is that they may help us distinguish between consumers whose gut microbial communities are either vulnerable or resistant to the effects of certain products introduced during food processing.”

Emphasizing the complexity of this task, Gordon, Wolf and their colleagues also showed that close cousins of Collinsella intestinalis did not respond to fructoselysine in the same way. These bacterial cousins, whose genomes vary somewhat, do not thrive in a fructoselysine-rich environment. The researchers said future studies are required before scientists will be able to identify and harness the specific capacities of individual microbes to clean up the array of potentially deleterious chemicals produced during some types of modern food manufacturing.

 

Source: Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri

Research: Maintaining weight loss retains cardiometabolic benefits

Getty Images Not regaining lost weight off is just as important as losing it orignailly heart disease stroke risk

Losing weight lowers the risks of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, particularly among patients with Type 2 diabetes. But keeping that weight off is just as important as losing it, a new study found.

The study, Change in Cardiometabolic Risk Factors Associated with…Weight Regain…, was published Oct. 9 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the open-access journal of the American Heart Association.

Few studies have directly compared cardiometabolic risk between people who successfully lost weight and maintained the weight loss to those who regained weight, particularly among people with Type 2 diabetes.

Alice H. Lichtenstein, a nutrition scientist and director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University“Regaining weight was associated with a reversal of the benefits seen from losing weight,” said senior and corresponding author Alice H. Lichtenstein, a nutrition scientist and director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. “If you lose weight and maintain the weight loss for a long period of time, do the benefits continue? The answer is yes and sometimes the benefits get even stronger. If you lose weight and don't maintain it, the benefits are diminished or disappear. These findings emphasize the dual importance of not only achieving a heathy body weight but maintaining a healthy body weight.” 

“What we need to focus on now is how we can support not only healthy approaches to losing weight but healthy approaches to helping those who are successful in losing weight maintain the weight loss. The latter may be the most challenging,” she said. Lichtenstein is a member of the American Heart Association’s Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health – Lifestyle Nutrition Committee.

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 1,600 participants with Type 2 diabetes in an intensive weight loss study who lost at least 3% of their initial body weight. They found that among those who lost 10% or more of their body weight and then maintained 75% or more of their weight loss four years later saw a significant improvement in risk factors, such as improved levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, blood pressure, waist circumference and diabetes control.

However, those benefits deteriorated among those who regained weight. Men and women who lost less than 10% of their initial weight but then regained any of the weight experienced a significant increase in their blood glucose levels, blood pressure and waist circumference. Men and women who lost 10% or more of their initial weight, then regained weight, also had a significant increase in blood glucose levels, according to the study.

The researchers used data from the Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) study, which assessed a year-long intensive lifestyle intervention program to promote weight loss, compared to standard care for heart disease and stroke risk, among people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and who were overweight.

The intensive lifestyle intervention program focused on achieving weight loss through healthy eating and increased physical activity, while standard care consisted of diabetes support and education. A three-year maintenance phase included monthly group meetings and recommendations to replace one meal per day with something similar to a replacement shake or bar, and to continue engaging in regular physical activity.

Co-authors are Samantha E. Berger, Ph.D.; Gordon S. Huggins, M.D.; Jeanne M. McCaffery, Ph.D.; and Paul F. Jacques, D.Sc. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the U.S. Department of Agriculture funded the study.

Source: American Heart Association

Natural Grocers serves up more meat and seafood choices

Natural Grocers has implemented a ranking program for meat and seafood products

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage has begun offering a bigger assortment of meat and seafood at its 153 stores in 19 states.

The chainwide departmental refresh also brings a new ranking system for fresh and frozen meat and seafood to make it easier for customers to shop for items with the quality standards they seek, Lakewood, Colorado-based Natural Grocers said Tuesday.

At the “new and improved” meat and seafood section, shoppers will find more high-quality and exotic varieties of grass-fed meat, pork, poultry, fish and seafood. That includes offerings such as bison, beef, yak, wild boar, elk, venison, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey and ostrich on the meat side, and cod, mahi-mahi, salmon, scallops, shrimp, tuna, pollock, rockfish and sole on the seafood side.

The specialty grocer noted that its minimum standards for all fresh and frozen meat include humane raising requirements, no hormones, no growth-promoting drugs, no antibiotics and no land animal by-products, as well as non-GMO feed preferred. For seafood, the retailer said it stocks only third-party certified sustainable options, including wild-caught fish, scallops and organically farmed shrimp.

“Our standards ensure that all of our meat is naturally and humanely raised and our seafood is sustainably sourced, which we believe is the best for our customers, the animals and our environment,” Natural Grocers Co-President Kemper Isely said in a statement. “We also believe our customers appreciate that we make this incredible quality and variety affordable.”

To provide more transparency and shopping convenience, Natural Grocers has implemented a ranking program for meat and seafood products. The retailer said the system is “based on criteria that matter to consumers” and gives customers product information that’s “often lacking in label claims.” The products are designed bronze, silver or gold:

  • Bronze—sustainably farmed; humanely raised; isn’t from cloned or genetically modified animals; and has no antibiotics, hormones or growth catalysts, or animal by-products.
  • Silver—all Bronze criteria plus non-GMO feed and alfalfa (ruminants); no synthetic colorants (seafood); free-range (poultry); 100% grass-fed and/or certified organic (ruminants, seafood); and sustainably sourced (seafood).
  • Gold—Bronze and Silver criteria as well as certified organic and/or other regenerative farming practice (beef, poultry, pork); 100% U.S. domestic (ruminants, poultry, pork); and wild-caught and sustainably certified (seafood, boar) standards.

Natural Grocers said its Bronze ranking would likely match the highest standard found at other grocery stores and farmers’ markets, while the Silver and Gold designation focus on “bold regenerative farming practices that safeguard a healthy planet for future generations.”

“The unique thing we've done is create real transparency and information about animal product labels so that customers can better understand and, more importantly, trust the food they're buying and eating is really what it claims to be,” according Heather Isely, executive vice president for Natural Grocers, which specializes in organic and natural groceries, body care products and dietary supplements.

To learn what attributes that a meat or seafood product carries, shoppers can refer to the “Our Standards” chart on the meat and seafood department doors, Natural Grocers said. “Years of complex information” was used in developing the ranking system, which gives customers a lot of information about an item in a few seconds, the company reported.

“There are so many loopholes in each animal species industry, and we've done our best to bring light to those areas of confusion and provide information that is usable at the point of purchase,” Heather Isley said. “Often there is a disconnect on how food gets from the farm to the table, and we want to help bridge that information gap.”

 

Supermarket News logoThis piece originally appeared on Supermarket News, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for more grocery trends and insights.

RollinGreens offers 5 tips for working with brokers

Lindsay Cunningham

Selling food is a big business. It can be complicated. Many people on both ends of the spectrum use a food broker, an independent sales agent who helps negotiate the sale of food between the people who produce and manufacture food and the grocery stores, wholesalers, retail stores and independents who buy it.

When co-founders Lindsey Cunningham and her husband Ryan "Chef Ko" Cunningham wanted to transition RollinGreens from a food truck business, best known for its organic, gluten-free Ancient Grain Millet Tots, into the natural frozen foods industry, they began working with food brokers.

Here is Cunningham’s advice on what natural food companies should know about working with food brokers.  

1. Think of food brokers as your scouts.

Food brokers are your foot soldiers who can go into individual stores. Hopefully, you will team up with a broker who has hundreds of brokers nationwide. 

2. Sometimes food brokers are welcomed into stores, sometimes they are not.

The landscape is changing. Some stores no longer want to work with brokers anymore and want to work directly with the founders or a sales group. Whole Foods Market did that for a while but changed it back to allow brokers into the store again.

3. Brokers help businesses get into independent retailers.

Brokers are really good for connecting with the independents. Independents are the retailers that help start your company because it’s the mom-and-pop stores that get you to that next level.

Brokers also help to submit promotions to distributors. The salesforce is typically managing those brokers and working hand-in-hand with brokers.

4. Have in-person meetings, training sessions.

It goes a long way to show up in person. We fly all over the country to hold in-person training sessions or host a lunch for all the brokers in that region.

We want to make sure they really know the brand and we can answer their questions. It’s important to get to know everybody from your whole supply chain.              

5. Consider doing a “ride-along” with your brokers to meet who is selling your products.

Sometimes we do ride-alongs with our brokers. For three days, we go to every single stop our brokers make and introduce ourselves to the team members in that store.

It is sad to say but something comes over people when they go into a supermarket. They're just like, “Where's the cereal? Where's the butter?” And they don't even look at these people like they're humans. It goes a long way to be nice and talk to these team members, to know their name and make them feel like they're human and valued by us.

[email protected]: Gender bias in agri-foodtech investing | Cancer warnings on peanut butter?

5@5: Gender bias in agri-foodtech investing | Cancer warnings on peanut butter?

Perception is reality: Data reveals gender bias in agri-foodtech investing

A mere 7% of agri-foodtech deals and 3% of investor dollars in the sector went to female startup founders over the past year according to a new report. However, it’s worth noting that this bias will harm investors the most—women are “on the front lines of consumer purchases” and therefore are best positioned to lead innovation in the space. Read more at Ag Funder News

Should peanut butter come with a cancer warning? Lawsuit challenges California food label

Packets of potato chips and jars of peanut butter sold in California may soon contain cancer warnings on their labels under the state’s mandatory Proposition 65 warning for a chemical called acrylamide. However, a new lawsuit argues that there is a lack of scientific evidence linking acrylamide to cancer and that the warning would incur “unnecessary fear” for consumers. Read more at Sacbee

Changing snack appetites leave granola bars behind

A study that looked at the “complex relationship between the social construction of gluten avoidance and the potential role of political views” has found that supporters of President Donald Trump are significantly more likely to avoid gluten than self-identified liberals. The authors of the study suggest that this could be an indication of Trump-era conservatives’ tendency to distrust “conventional institutions”—which includes conventional agriculture. Read more at The Wall Street Journal

There’s a huge, angry backlash against fake meat

Not everyone is excited about the massive amount of plant-based meat innovation going on today. Following Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s lack of endorsement for the processed products coming out of companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, some critics are saying that these newer meat alternatives are “unhealthy and go against the idea of consuming ‘whole,’ GMO-free foods. Read more at Futurism

Nonprofit wants to label products that are ‘Climate Neutral Certified’

While the consumer confusion surrounding better-for-you labels on products has never been higher, here’s another one to consider: Climate Neutral Certified. The label would be carried by those brands that measure, reduce and offset all the carbon generated by the production and delivery of their products. Read more at Yahoo News

Esca Bona

Summit convenes regenerative ag leaders in natural products and beyond

Epi-4079.jpg

In 2016, Seleyn DeYarus started picking up on new terminology being used at Natural Products Expo West. People were talking about “regenerative agriculture.” Yet, as this new terminology was emerging she also witnessed a lot of confusion and pushback within the industry to this new concept. After confirming with colleagues that regenerative agriculture was indeed significant, DeYarus, executive director of At the Epicenter—a nonprofit aimed at fostering conversation and collaboration between leaders and influencers of sustainably minded businesses—identified that a forum was needed to facilitate deeper consideration and discussion on the topic outside of the busy-ness of a trade show. And so, the Regenerative Earth Summit was born.

The first Regenerative Earth Summit: Food + Climate + Culture took place in 2017 and provided a forum for ideas to be exchanged, and confusion and concerns to be vented and addressed. “There is little doubt that it was a significant turning point in the industry conversation about what the opportunity of regenerative ag is for the organic and food industry at large,” DeYarus said.

From there, the second Regenerative Earth Summit focused on Food, Fiber + Climate. With Patagonia CEO Rose Marcaro as keynote speaker, the summit drew speakers and thought leaders from food, fashion and lifestyle apparel companies with an organic or regenerative mandate such as Patagonia, Timberland and prAna, Danone, Applegate and Lotus Foods. Body care and dietary supplement leaders, investors and activators joined the mix, too.

“Because there is agriculture in the food and fashion space, we thought these two industries would benefit from talking with one another and creating the potential for collaboration,” DeYaurus said. “It was a very powerful convening that was out of the normative for both industry sectors because they don’t usually crosspollinate. It was extraordinarily significant to reorganize ourselves around how we address such large systemic damage to our planet.”

One of the notable takeaways for attendees from last year’s summit, DeYarus said: relationships.

“From talking to brands like Timberland, the summit was instrumental in galvanizing their trajectory to make regenerative a part of their business,” DeYarus said.

Brands such as Applegate and Eileen Fisher concurred, noting that they were able to connect to other industry insiders who were helpful to their pursuit of upping their own game on the sustainability front.

“I am consistently amazed and energized to see so many thought leaders from across the regenerative movement convene for a great purpose. Whether you’re just getting started on a regenerative path or seeking motivation to make the next leap, you’ll find inspiration at the Regenerative Earth Summit,” said summit attendee Tina Owens, senior director ag funding and communication at Danone North America.

This year, Regenerative Earth Summit: Soil + Water + Climate is expected to be no different, with leaders from Lush North America, Patagonia, The North Face, MegaFood, Dr. Bronner’s, Eileen Fisher, Charlotte’s Web, Danone, Timberland and Alter Eco, to name just a few, already signed up. This year’s Summit will focus on "Soil + Water + Climate,” with practitioner and author Tieraona Low Dog, MD, providing insights to how the health of the planet and waterways is affecting the health of people, while well-known food activist and finance specialist Robyn O’Brien will talk investing and how to shake up Wall Street for a better future. In addition, farmers, ranchers, environmental leaders such as Savory Institute and American Sustainable Business Council, supply managers and investors will all take to the stage to lead discussions over the course of this two-day event.

“It is a two-day event. We are not going to solve the world’s problems, we can’t put that pressure on a summit, but what it is and does well is bring key people together who are already deeply committed to the regenerative agenda or they know it is of value and they want to know more about it to figure out where it fits and how they fit into this larger constellation of effort," DeYarus said. "It provides a context in a well-structured two days, to deepen and help extend and open relationships. That is how we will heal the planet through our relating, cooperating and collaborating."

While people have attached many nuances to the term regenerative agriculture, at its core, it still is a holistic approach to agriculture with a focus on farming practices that build healthy soil, mitigating topsoil and water runoff and countering climate change through carbon sequestration, restoring and maintaining biodiversity. With the focus on soil, many people believe regenerative starts with organic and builds from there to ensure clean and healthy soil. From here, regenerative agriculture has become a stepping-off point for businesses to focus on building supply chains and business infrastructures that work to support ecosystems, biodiversity, people and the planet.

“The work in front of us is to help move people’s comprehension that we are not separate from each other and this living planet. For our species and others to thrive, we have to change this fundamental relationship to one that is regenerative versus extractional, relational versus transactional and interdependent versus independent. It’s a leap, but it’s a necessary leap,” DeYarus said.

This year’s Regenerative Earth Summit: Soil + Water + Climate will take place Oct. 29-30 at University of Colorado’s Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex, in Boulder, Colorado. In addition, there is a Pre-Summit Leadership Day on Monday, Oct. 28, intended for supply chain decision makers and investors, agriculture producers and specialists to get tactical, while addressing drivers and barriers to growth involving regenerative agriculture. For more information, check out At the Epicenter.

The Regnerative Earth Summit is an Esca Bona programming partner thanks to these underwriters:

Fodder podcast underwriters logos 301Inc, Giannuzzi Group, Healthy Lifestyle Brands, Whipstitch Capital             

Unboxed: 11 collagen-infused foods for that inner glow

The natural products industry is aglow with collagen, the naturally occurring protein that supports healthy joints, strong bones and skin elasticity. Taken as a powder or a pill, collagen supplements are a booming market with Nutrition Business Journal projecting a 33% growth in sales in 2019 and an estimated $230 million in annual sales.

This growth has also propelled the emergence of a category of collagen-infused foods and beverages, with natural brands stepping up to create products that feed into consumers’ ever-advancing quest for functional foods and added protein.

Check out this gallery featuring some of the edible collagen brands that have made it onto store shelves this year, fueling consumers’ search for beauty from within.  

Unilever announces 2 ambitious new commitments for a waste-free world

unilever-logo.jpg

Unilever has confirmed that by 2025 it will:

  • Halve its use of virgin plastic, by reducing its absolute use of plastic packaging by more than 100,000 tons and accelerating its use of recycled plastic.
  • Help collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells

This commitment makes Unilever the first major global consumer goods company to commit to an absolute plastics reduction across its portfolio.

Unilever is already on track to achieve its existing commitments to ensure all of its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, and to use at least 25% recycled plastic in its packaging, also by 2025.

Alan Jope, Unilever's CEO, stated that “plastic has its place, but that place is not in the environment. We can only eliminate plastic waste by acting fast and taking radical action at all points in the plastic cycle.

“Our starting point has to be design, reducing the amount of plastic we use, and then making sure that what we do use increasingly comes from recycled sources. We are also committed to ensuring all our plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.

“This demands a fundamental rethink in our approach to our packaging and products. It requires us to introduce new and innovative packaging materials and scale up new business models, like re-use and re-fill formats, at an unprecedented speed and intensity.”

Unilever’s commitment will require the business to help collect and process around 600,000 tons of plastic annually by 2025. This will be delivered through investment and partnerships which improve waste management infrastructure in many of the countries in which Unilever operates.

Jope added: “Our vision is a world in which everyone works together to ensure that plastic stays in the economy and out of the environment. Our plastic is our responsibility and so we are committed to collecting back more than we sell, as part of our drive towards a circular economy. This is a daunting but exciting task which will help drive global demand for recycled plastic.”

Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said that "today’s announcement by Unilever is a significant step in creating a circular economy for plastic. By eliminating unnecessary packaging through innovations such as refill, reuse, and concentrates, while increasing their use of recycled plastic, Unilever is demonstrating how businesses can move away from virgin plastics. We urge others to follow their lead, so collectively we can eliminate the plastic we don’t need, innovate, so what we do need is circulated, and ultimately build an economic system where plastic packaging never becomes waste."

Since 2017, Unilever has been transforming its approach to plastic packaging through its "Less, Better, No" plastic framework.

Through Less Plastic Unilever has explored new ways of packaging and delivering products–including concentrates, such as its new Cif Eco-refill which eliminates 75% of plastic, and new refill stations for shampoo and laundry detergent rolled out across shops, universities and mobile vending in South East Asia.

Better Plastic has led to pioneering innovations such as the new detectable pigment being used by Axe (Lynx) and TRESemmé , which makes black plastic recyclable, as it can now be seen and sorted by recycling plant scanners, and the Lipton "festival bottle’ which is made of 100% recycled plastic and is collected using a deposit scheme.

As part of No Plastic, Unilever has brought to the market innovations including shampoo bars, refillable toothpaste tablets, cardboard deodorant sticks and bamboo toothbrushes. It has also signed up to the Loop platform, which is exploring new ways of delivering and collecting reusable products from consumers’ homes.

As part of today’s announcement, Unilever has posted a video on its website addressing the issue of ocean plastic and committing to play its part to "make the blue planet, blue again."

Source: Unilever

Natural Products Expo

4 topical CBD products that keep your store safe and customers happy

Todd Runestad with Muscle Mx

Because cannabis is not directly prohibited by regulation as an ingredient in cosmetics, this category has proliferated in retail stores otherwise too risk-averse to consider stocking hemp CBD supplements. Topicals also offer retailers a way to diversify their product set, offering a different delivery format—and price point—to sell to customers. We visit Muscle MX, RE Botanicals, Lazarus Naturals, and ShiKai. 

Editorial note: Topicals are regulated by FDA as either drugs, cosmetics or both under the FD&C Act and the FPLA.


hemp products connect directory logoLooking for hemp and CBD products that are doing it right? Hemp Products Connect showcases products from responsible brands reviewed and approved by New Hope Network Standards.

CBD report card—industry’s open response and call for accuracy and transparency

A consortium of 11 hemp CBD companies mailed the following letter to the Center for Food Safety in response to the group's scorecard that was unveiled at Natural Products Expo East 2019. Learn more about the controversial scorecard and the industry response here.

September 25, 2019

Center for Food Safety
Center for Cannabis Safety
Attn: Rebecca Spector, Project Manager/Editor 660 Pennsylvania Ave., SE 402
Washington, DC 20003

Re: CBD Report Card—Industry’s Open Response and Call for Accuracy and Transparency

Dear Ms. Spector:

We the undersigned retailers, suppliers, and manufacturers of CBD write to urge the Center for Food Safety (CFS) to promptly correct the record in the Hemp CBD Scorecard (the “Scorecard”) published on September 11. The undersigned include dietary supplement companies and hemp industry leaders dedicated to responsibly producing the best and safest hemp products. While we applaud efforts to provide consumers with information about how CBD products are produced and processed, we are deeply concerned about spreading misinformation. Our purpose in writing is to share our concerns and propose a resolution.

The Survey

The Scorecard assigns letter grades to CBD companies based on data largely collected through a self-reported survey or, failing that, through CFS’s luck in independently verifying information not received through the survey. CFS admits it “did not ask for official documentation proving certain company claims.” But any study that purports to be independent, rigorous, and scientific, should independently verify information that forms the basis of its public assessments.

As for the companies that did not respond to the survey, did not notice it, thought it was spam, or simply did not receive it, CFS just “assume[d] that the company d[id] not follow” the criteria and lowered grades accordingly. Although CFS could argue it independently searched for some information not reported in the survey, this argument fails because many of the undersigned companies met the criteria outlined in the Scorecard and clearly posted this information on their websites, yet received failing or near-failing grades.

Criteria 1: Production (25 points)

Fully one quarter of a company’s entire grade is based off a brief, vaguely worded “Production” category. Yet, aside from a comment about organic certification, nowhere in the report or its appendix does CFS explain what the Production category entails. It strikes us as unfair and misleading to assign 25% of a grade to such an ill-defined category. To the extent the Production category involves organic certification, the Scorecard fails to explain how companies are graded when they offer both organic and non-organic SKUs, as many companies do. Moreover, there are still only a limited number of farms that have received organic certification. This criterion appears to us to be premature, especially for a quarter of the grade.

Category 2: Processing (5 points)

CFS assigns 5 points for CO2 or lipid extraction, 2.5 points for a combination of CO2 and alcohol extraction, and 0 points “if the company did not specify non-GMO ethanol.” Thus, if a company did not respond to the survey or never received it, that company gets an “F” for processing even though they may actually use CO2 or non-GMO extraction.

Category 3: Testing (30 points)

Almost a third of the grade relates to “testing,” including for pesticides, microbiological contaminants, heavy metals, and for following “Good Management Practices.” The Center lowers grades for failing to test for glyphosate, a test that, CFS concedes, is unavailable in most standard pesticide testing panels. Consequently, many companies that diligently test every lot for pesticides received low or failing grades simply because they did not procure a single specific, non-standard subtest (assuming one was available).

In fact, there is at least one company that received a grade of “A” that does not provide online testing results of any kind for the majority of products it makes, including for heavy metals, pesticides (including glyphosate), efficacy, microbial safety, etc. That company only provides a singular “sample” set of test results from one batch for each SKU on its website. If consumers wish to obtain results for the specific bottle they are interested in buying, they must contact the company by phone.

Yet other companies that do provide lot-specific, third party test results for every batch made—and do so directly on their websites—were given low or no points because consumers are asked to enter a lot or batch number to pull up the specific test results for that bottle. Since all the information needed to get test results is available on the outside of the packaging, consumers can immediately see how the specific bottle in their hand rates, before purchase. Indeed, access to batch-specific test results via on-pack QR codes is not only an industry standard; it is required to legally sell CBD in certain states. The way you rated companies on this scorecard appears in direct conflict with your stated intent of transparency, and also further points to a lack of proper validation or research.

Category 4: Transparency (40 points)

Almost half of the total score—40/100 points—relates to CFS’s conception of “transparency.” While “transparency” sounds good, most of the transparency points in the Scorecard come from unverified “responsiveness to the CFS survey, phone calls, and general follow ups.” If the company did not respond to or did not receive the survey, up to 40% of the available points were lost. 40% of the grade can be the difference between an “A” and an “F” or “D.”

Call to Action—Correct the Record

The undersigned ask CFS to promptly update the Scorecard to reflect companies’ actual practices. Specifically, we ask the following:

  • Within 10 days of receipt of this letter, provide each company with a copy of the original survey and a breakdown of its per-category score;
  • Provide a 20-day window for companies to provide accurate information;
  • Provide a CFS point of contact to provide correct information about CBD products; and
  • Promptly update the Scorecard and all publications referring to it so that it reflects accurate and complete information.

Thank you in advance for your willingness to work with the industry to truly provide consumers with accurate and transparent information about CBD products.

Signed, 

Ancient Nutrition
Barlean's
Bluebird Botanicals
CBDistillery
CV Sciences
Garden of Life
HempFusion
Irwin Naturals
Joy Organics
Queen City Hemp
Shikai