FDA Warns of THC Products Posing as Familiar Snacks, Candy

Coalition of attorneys general ask Congress to address the problem
THC CPG products
Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers about the risk of accidental ingestion of food products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Edible products containing THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, can easily be mistaken for commonly consumed foods such as breakfast cereal, candy and cookies, the FDA said. The FDA received more than 125 adverse event reports from Jan. 1, 2021, to May 31, related to children and adults who consumed edible products containing THC. Adverse effects included hallucinations, increased heart rate and vomiting, and some required medical intervention or hospitalization, the agency said.

Some edible THC products mimic the appearance of well-known branded foods, and the FDA is aware of reports of copycat products packaged to look like Cap’n Crunch, Cocoa Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, Froot Loops, Fruity Pebbles, Nerds Ropes, Starbursts, Sour Patch Kids and Trix, among others, it said in a June 16 news release.

“The FDA is actively working with federal and state partners to further address the concerns related to these products and monitoring the market for adverse events, product complaints and other emerging cannabis-derived products of potential concern,” the agency said.

In addition to the adverse event reports, the national poison control centers received 10,448 single substance exposure cases involving only edible products containing THC between the same dates. Of those cases, 77% involved patients 19 years old or younger and 65% involved unintentional exposure to edible products containing THC, the FDA said.

A coalition of state attorneys general sent a letter to Congress days after the FDA’s news release came out, urging them to act regarding the copycat THC products.

“The undersigned attorneys general do not all agree on the best regulatory scheme for cannabis and THC generally, but we all agree on one thing: copycat THC edibles pose a grave risk to the health, safety, and welfare of our children,” the letter said. “Congress should immediately enact legislation authorizing trademark holders of well-known and trusted consumer packaged goods to hold accountable those malicious actors who are using those marks to market illicit copycat THC edibles to children.”

Consumer packaged goods manufacturers lack the legal tools to hold counterfeiters accountable, and the patchwork of legality for cannabis exacerbates the confusion for consumers, the attorneys general said.

“More can be done to address this problem,” the letter stated.

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares led the effort. Attorneys general from Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont and Washington also signed the letter.

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