Today I wanted to dive into the mysterious world of testing, as so many people have asked me how to read and understand a certificate of analysis, what the point of them is and why they are so important. Just the same, I have spoken to a few entrepreneurs that are looking to setup a CBD brand and don’t know where to start, so I hope a few people will find this useful.

What Is A Certificate Of Analysis For CBD?

This is an authentic document that is issued after an analysis of a product has been conducted, in order to understand the quality and purity of the ingredients present through scientific testing. They’re an important part of quality control, tested on a batch of products, provided to a third party lab. The laboratory has to be accredited, to show they are qualified to do this testing.

The certificate of analysis will look at the cannabinoid breakdown, helping CBD brands to state the mg of CBD present, as well as any other cannabinoids such as THC (which has to be under 0.2% in the UK), CBN and CBG. This way, you can let your customers know whether you have a full spectrum product, broad spectrum or isolate.

How Do I Get A Certificate Of Analysis?

You must find a cannabinoid testing laboratory who are accredited in this field. They have to be EN ISO/IEC 17025 compliant, while there are plenty of brilliant labs based in Europe, quite a few being setup in the Czech Republic. Over time I will look to update this section to list the best laboratories available.

Once you have found a relevant lab and reached out to them, you will need to send your range of products to be tested by mail. It normally only takes 5-10 working days from the moment they receive the products until they provide the results. The cost will depend on the amount of products to be tested, but the price per sample is normally around £50 + VAT.

Many of these labs will test the samples using high pressure liquid chromatography to find the cannabinoid breakdown.

Why Should I Check The 3rd Party Lab Test Results?

Before purchasing any CBD based product, you should ask to see the certificate of analysis, which will illustrate the product had a test showing it contained at least the amount of CBD they are advertising on the packaging. If you cannot find the results on the website, don’t hesitate to email them to ask for these. If they don’t provide them, do not purchase any products from them. They are normally a downloadable PDF on their website, or uploaded as an image. Another way you might be able to see the COA is through a QR code on the product packaging, which isn’t always present but I have seen it with a few brands.

One incredibly important reason to check the test results, beyond looking at the CBD quantity, is also to ensure it doesn’t contain anything it shouldn’t. Hemp is highly porous and anything the crop might have taken such as chemical pesticides, would most likely be present in the oil, therefore you should always check for these. The soil should be heavily checked to ensure there is no presence of heavy metals by the time it has been extracted.

There really aren’t many industry standards or regulations in place unfortunately, hence why I started this blog to offer greater transparency, so the usage of a certificate of analysis helps us to see exactly what is under the bonnet.

While it is understandable the test might not be brand new, you should be concerned if it is quite old. I couldn’t find specific information on the maximum length, but the oldest I’ve seen is 18months old (I hope that helps to set a benchmark), with many being 9-12 months old.

How Do You Read A CBD COA?

The first part you should check is who produced the test, it should always be performed by a third party laboratory, while you should be able to find the details of this lab online. This is important to ensure they are not connected to the brand and the tests are 100% accurate.

After this, you will want to check the potency levels. These will either be displayed as MG per G or MG per ML. The weight obviously doesn’t include packaging. The MG per G is the measurement of the cannabinoid per gram, so you will need to check the actual weight of the product, but this will normally all be displayed on the COA. If you see MG per ML, this will be for a liquid product.

You will normally see a high percentage of CBD on the test, matching the amounts they are advertising the product as, but often a little higher. You may also see some presence of THC, albeit it can’t legally be over 0.2% in the UK.

Beyond these, there may be small amounts of other cannabinoids such as CBC, CBG, CBN, of which there are 113 cannabinoids and they don’t list them all as many will have a trace at best. One reason why I like checking this is because I’ve caught out a few brands that state their product is ‘full spectrum’, yet they didn’t have more than a trace of any other cannabinoids. You may also see it as a percentage, highlighting how much the CBD is from the overall weight.

After this, you will often see sections highlighting heavy metals, pesticide results and residual solvent results, of which all should show ‘not detected’. You shouldn’t ever see anything other than this, but it is still worth quickly checking anyway.

The final section is the terpene profile, which are organic compounds that provide the odour, flavour and colour. This will show the presence of each type of terpene, such as linalool, guaiol, humulene, isopulegol, B-caryophyllene and caryophyllene oxide.

What Is The Difference Between A Certificate Of Analysis And A Certificate Of Conformance?

A certificate of conformance is another document you might hear of, which illustrates the goods or service meets the associated required standards. They are produced by a relevant authority, however they don’t include any testing. You will get minimal information from a COC, simply around product compliance.

On the other hand, the COA is much more detailed, analysing the data to illustrate potency and quantities of chemicals found.

By Tom Bourlet

Being based in Brighton, I have directly witnessed the CBD industry grow and prosper, albeit witnessing the difficulties around legislation and the lack of transparency. I therefore decided to become a neutral viewpoint offering genuine reviews, advice and guidance.

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