How to Manage Cannabinoid Degradation in Food and Beverage Products
Russ Cersosimo, cofounder of Hemp Synergistics, talks extraction, third-party testing and proper packaging.
High quality cannabis-infused food and beverages start with high quality cannabis ingredients.
Russ Cersosimo, cofounder of Hemp Synergistics, Leetsdale, PA, says hemp sourcing, extraction and effective storage and packaging are key factors to consider when it comes to preserving a product’s quality and cannabinoid content.
Cannabis Products recently spoke with Cersosimo about cannabinoid degradation and what can be done to prevent or reduce it.
CP: What are the top safety concerns when adding cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) to foods and beverages?
RC: There are three main concerns to consider:
1. Safe extraction: Hemp oil and cannabinoids, including CBD, can be extracted with a variety of methods. Most methods involve CO2, hydrocarbons or alcohols. Typically, to accommodate the volumes needed for the hemp industry (opposed to the marijuana industry), only alcohol extraction has the scalability and efficiency required.
While ethanol is a GRAS, that is, designated by the FDA to be safe as a food additive, it is heavily taxed and an expensive solvent. This is often mitigated with the use of tax-exempt, “denatured” ethanol. Ethanol denaturing agents include bittering agents, many of which are toxic, including: (denatonium benzoate or denatonium saccharide), methanol, isopropanol, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, pyridine, benzene, diethyl phthalate and naphtha. Unless the hemp extractor is incredibly careful and ensures product safety with appropriate third-party lab testing, these denaturing agents can remain in the CBD oil. This could impact safety as toxic solvents can become incorporated in the final food and beverage product.
2. High quality hemp sourcing: CBD oil is only as good as the original hemp from which it originated. While growing, hemp actively bioaccumulates heavy metals, pesticides and other non-desirables. These undesirable (and often dangerous) contaminates will remain in the hemp oil and will become incorporated in the final food and beverage product. Right now, consumers, who may be lured by marketing or a cheaper product price, could be putting their health at risk. This month, the FDA announced a voluntary recall of a CBD oil that tested high for lead. Hemp Synergistics only sources its hemp from certified U.S. organic farms. Consumers should not buy CBD oil if they don’t know that it’s safely sourced.
3. Effective packaging and storage: Cannabinoids in hemp, like many complex organic molecules, can naturally degrade over time. For example, THC naturally degrades into CBN. In addition, recent studies have shown that certain types of packaging significantly degrade the concentration of cannabinoids, especially when nano-emulsified, such as in beverages.
Hemp oil is a natural plant product and contains proteins, fats, aliphatic and aromatic compounds, and numerous fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, γ-linolenic acid, gamma linolenic acid, stearidonic acid, oleic acid and other saturated fatty acids (mainly palmitic, stearic acids) and eicosenoic acid. These fatty acids can oxidize and become rancid if not stored properly. Hemp Synergistics works with clients to advise them on product longevity and efficacy.
CP: What variables can cause cannabinoids to degrade once added to a food or beverage product?
RC: In addition to cheap and ineffective packaging, storage time, temperature, natural acidity, oxidation and nano-emulsification increases the degradation of cannabinoids. To mitigate this, Hemp Synergistics works with food and beverage manufacturers to help them formulate high quality, retail-ready packaged products. For example, we recently worked with a pretzel manufacturer to customize a flavor-neutral CBD oil to ensure flavor profile. But the most critical part of this engagement was assisting with food science and formulation. We made sure to test and perfect the timing of when the CBD oil was added to the recipe. This was important because if it was added in at the wrong time, the heat would impact the CBD’s composition and effectiveness.
CP: How common is it for cannabinoids to experience this type of degradation?
RC: Very common, if the product is not handled properly.
CP: Do cannabis testing labs routinely test for cannabinoid degradation in finished products during shelf-life studies?
RC: Cannabis labs will test for cannabinoid and terpene potency, microbials, pesticides, aflatoxins and residual solvents, but the tests must be ordered by the submitting organization. Cannabis labs do not test for oxidation or any other food-related type of testing.
There are no federal standards for hemp product testing, so there is little consistency in the market. Furthermore, the cannabis labs use disparate testing technologies and reporting language, making it exceedingly difficult to interpret results. This inconsistency in CBD product efficacy is precisely what drove me to put together a team of top scientists, food and nutraceutical experts and logistics and supply chain managers. Our goal is to fill this gap and intelligently design high quality, 100 percent safe CBD products from extraction to ingestion.
CP: How can cannabinoid suppliers build more stability into their ingredients?
RC: Suppliers must be more focused more on quality, purity and consistency than having the highest profit margins. Since the industry is largely unregulated, purchasers must ask questions like:
- Does the CBD supplier use “Just-In-Time” manufacturing and delivery?
- What kind of antioxidants, packaging and third-party lab testing does the supplier use to ensure product bioavailability?
- Does the supplier’s executive team include experts in supply chain management and supply and demand planning? Hemp Synergistics was formed to include experts in all of these areas to ensure that the food industry has a safe, high quality consistent CBD oil 100 percent of the time.