• The Acheson Group

The Industry Impacts of a Single Edibles Recall

Any food recall has a series of negative impacts, particularly when it is due to a food contamination, allergen, or poisoning issue. It impacts the consumers who became ill or even just had to return or trash the product, the business having to conduct the recall and face financial and brand damage, and the industry segment of which the product is a part. And when that product is in a budding industry – such as that of cannabis-infused edibles, the impact on the entire cannabis market can be momentous. Let me explain.


With neither medicinal nor recreational marijuana yet legal on the U.S. federal level or in all 50 states, the industry continues to face controversy which could overturn its legality at any time. The battle is continually fought in Congress with bills being proposed and votes being blocked as well as in businesses which can still require marijuana testing of prospective – and current – employees, and even in homes.


So a recall for which consumers became ill or died would provide extensive fuel for cannabis opponents. There can be little question that cannabis adversaries (including noted opponent U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his supporters) would use the incident to their advantage, not adding it to their arguments to block votes on pro-cannabis bills but potentially allowing for the federal prosecution of the makers and users – taking the still nascent industry years backward.


The impact would be particularly formidable if it were due to a formulation or QA error with a product containing a greater amount of THC than labeled. Or if were to affect a child.


Recall prevention for cannabis-infused edibles includes ensuring you:

  • Are in compliance with all relevant medical and edible regulations. Although the U.S. cannabis industry may not yet be accountable to the FDA because of its federal illegality, it is advised that producers know, understand and comply with the federal food and drug regulations. Not only is the state department to which the producer is accountable likely to use the federal regulations at least as a guide, but by adapting to federal law now, producers will be prepared when cannabis does become federally legal. In Canada, the legislative and regulatory framework is different. Cannabis laws are all federal and apply evenly across the country. Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada under a licensing system, for over 20 years. With the passing of the Cannabis Act in June 2018, recreational marijuana will be legal in September 2018 and cannabis edibles become legal in July 2019. In addition to the new cannabis laws, there are new and comprehensive food regulations coming into effect in January 2019. All food producers, including cannabis edibles, will be require federal licensing, preventive controls, and traceability systems. This is in addition to Health Canada drug program mandatory controls. The Canadian Cannabis industry is growing rapidly and are gearing up for recreational legalization. Any company entering into the edibles area in Canada needs to understand and prepare for the new legal frameworks and the federal inspection programs that will come with them.

  • Have a strong supply-chain program. This should include assessment of inherent risk of the ingredient, the way in which the supplier controls risk, and the way in which a business uses the ingredients. Additionally, having supplier-approval and traceability programs, and fulfilling the supply-chain requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will help producers ensure their suppliers are providing safe, quality ingredients.

  • Have food safety and quality assurance/control (QA/QC) checks and balances throughout your production. This should start with inspection of incoming supplies and proceed through production to out-the-door distribution (or sales if your operation includes a dispensary). QA/QC should focus on the cannabis formulation as well as general food safety and risk management.