Editor’s Note: This story has been updated since its original publication on March 13, 2018.
The German phytopharma giant Pohl-Boskamp, which distributes products from Canadian cannabis producer Peace Naturals in Germany, voluntarily withdrew a one-kilogram batch of Peace Naturals flower from the German market last week, due to a testing issue involving possible microbial contamination.
In a March 7 letter delivered to pharmacies that carry the company’s medical cannabis, Pohl-Boskamp asked distributors to return a specific batch to the German company:
“Batch 409 of the prescription cannabis Peace Naturals 20/1 (PZN – 138 838 11) was found to be possibly microbiologically contaminated during a follow-up examination. Pohl-Boskamp has decided to recall batch 409 of the aforementioned PZN as a precaution.”
Pohl-Boskamp executive Thomas Höppner said in a statement that “the withdrawn batch (approximately 1 kilogram) was [originally] released for sale because it passed third-party testing. In a retest, there was a discrepancy between the results so the product was withdrawn as a precaution in Germany.”
Exports Began in Late 2017
Peace Naturals is a division of the Cronos Group, a licensed cannabis producer based in Toronto. Last month Cronos became the first cannabis company to be listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
Höppner and Cronos CEO Mike Gorenstein emphasized that the recall was a precautionary measure taken by the company, not a government-driven recall. “This was not a recall and is a voluntary withdrawal,” Höppner said.
The Cronos-owned Peace Naturals has been shipping medical cannabis to Pohl-Boskamp in Germany since Dec. 2017.
Different Labs, Different Results
In an interview with Leafly, Cronos CEO Gorenstein said Pohl-Boskamp has been testing imported batches of medical cannabis every month to check for any product degradation in the export process. (The leaf cannabis is produced by Peace Naturals and tested by SGS, a third-party commercial lab in Canada, then shipped to Germany in sealed containers.)
“Prior to releasing product for sale, all Peace Naturals product is tested by third party accredited labs in Canada to ensure compliance with applicable regulations,” said Gorenstein.
According to Cronos, in the course of testing a specific one-kilogram batch, the German lab turned up different microbial levels than the Canadian lab found. That spurred Pohl-Boskamp to ask pharmacies to voluntarily return bottles from that specific batch.
The company is re-testing the returned product in order to determine what happened. Those re-tests, Gorenstein said, are still in process.