CBD Testing: How to Read the COA

Lars
September 17, 2020

Every reputable CBD brand in the market touts its rigorous testing as one of the key factors for its success. Unlike many platitudes often showered upon themselves, we believe this is a valid criterion on which companies should be judged upon. Independent lab testing is the cornerstone of a successful CBD brand, and no compromise ought to be tolerated in this regard. 

A problem arises, however, when brands claim to have tested all their products without actually backing it up with sufficient data. Often, CBD companies rely on your inability to read their certificate of analysis or accurately understand the test results to misrepresent their products. At other times, what is portrayed on the surface is vastly different from the inherent components of the CBD product sold. 

So in this article, we shall take a closer look at quite a few things related to testing and how to read a certificate of analysis. 

The importance of testing


While the 2018 farm bill legalized hemp, the industry is still unregulated to a large degree, and there is no oversight on the various companies or the products they offer. This means not only is there no authority, like the FDA, looking into the product safety and quality, there is also free rein for unscrupulous players to misrepresent their products. Even an in-house testing protocol is to be only taken with a pinch of salt. 

This is why most reputable CBD companies opt for third party lab testing, with the results being published online for verification. This ensures that you, as a consumer, can check for accurate CBD content in a product with a full cannabinoids and terpenes profile, and be assured of it being free from contaminants. 

In layman’s terms, you know exactly what is in the product you buy, and how much of it as well. A strict rule of thumb is to never buy something without an independent lab test result attached to it. 

Understanding the results


First and foremost, you need to look up the lab that has conducted the testing, as well as the dates. Some companies shirk their responsibility in testing their products regularly.

There’s also the fact that CBD could be available in different spectrums with the presence of certain compounds like THC, or completely pure. Your test results should specify exactly what is being examined. 

Testing Process


All CBD products are made from hemp extracts; however, they are not the only ingredients used in the final product. For instance, oil tinctures often have MCT oil or coconut oil as a carrier. It is during this process that contaminants can seep in. 

So products are usually tested at either of the two stages: after the initial hemp extract is acquired or at the final product. Each has its own merits, but rarely are tests conducted at both stages. So any company which does that is to be lauded. 

When testing the hemp extract, you’d be able to find the full cannabinoid profile, terpenes, flavonoids, and the ilk. However, trace amounts of these compounds would not show up when testing the final product. This is not to be alarmed about, although it is advised to talk with the customer support regarding it. 

Cannabinoid profile


This is probably the most important result you need to focus on. Cannabinoid profile typically indicates the presence and amount of CBD, THC, and various other cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, CBC, etc. 

  • For a full spectrum CBD product, there should be around <0.3% THC as well as a range of cannabinoids, which are essential for the entourage effect. 
  • For a broad spectrum, THC should be zero, while other cannabinoids should be present.
  • Isolates, on the other hand, should have virtually no presence of any other compound except CBD.  

On rare occasions, its possible full/broad spectrum products only display CBD and THC levels but not other cannabinoids. You can verify their presence by looking at the terpenes profile. 

However, we would highly recommend against purchasing products without a terpenes profile or trustworthy ingredients list. 

Terpenes


These are naturally occurring aromatic oils present in hemp that give CBD its entourage effect. They are measured as parts per million (PPM) and are absent in isolate products. 

Heavy metals


A screening test is conducted to ensure products are free from arsenic, lead, cadmium, etc. 

Microbiology


Tests conducted to detect any presence of microbes such as E.coli, yeast, molds as well as mycotoxins produced by fungi. 

Pesticides/herbicides


Tests determine if the products have any detectable levels of herbicides, pesticides, and other contaminants, which might be toxic to your health. 

Residues


Most CBD products are processed through extraction processes that involve the usage of solvents. This test analyzes whether these solvents have left behind any residues. 

Certificate of Quality Assurance


In addition to the regular COAs, certain companies offer a COQA that strives to put the customer’s mind at rest. These provide a second layer of reports that test more compounds as well as verify the flavor, color, odor, and other variables of the CBD product. 

Conclusion


Most reputable CBD brands go above and beyond when it comes to testing by placing QR codes on all products. These can then be used to verify individual product test results.

While this may be cost-prohibitive for smaller businesses, there is no excuse for not publishing batch testing results regularly on the website. 

Hopefully, your red flags are raised when you come across products without accurate, third-party testing.

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