- A COA (Certificate of Analysis) tells you about the composition, quality, and safety of a product
- A COA should be provided by a third party that is independent of the vendor
- A COA should include information things that you want in your product, including cannabinoids and terpenes
- A COA should include information about things that you do not want in your product, including microbes, heavy metals, pesticides, residual solvents, and (if undesired) THC
- A COA is provided to consumers through a QR code
What is a COA?
COA stands for Certificate of Analysis. It is a document that displays the results of an analysis of the chemical composition of a product. The COA will provide you with details about the composition of your product and will help you to ensure that the product is safe for consumption. COA’s should be done for every batch of product that is produced as well as for every end product. Your product should have a QR code on it that is linked to a COA; be sure the information matches the associated COA.
Why is a COA Important?
There are several studies that have shown that CBD products are often mislabeled. For example, a 2017 study found that of 84 CBD products tested, the cannabinoid composition of 64% of products was inconsistent with the product label. Some products were under-labeled (containing less CBD than advertised), some were over-labelled (containing more CBD than advertised), and some even contained THC (when they weren’t supposed to).1
Because the CBD product market is currently unregulated, there are no federal requirements for a company to include a COA with their product. However, several states now require a QR code on hemp CBD product labels that tells consumers about the product ingredients and includes a COA from a third party lab. These states include Indiana, Texas, Utah, Florida, New York, and Oregon. Most reputable CBD companies now include a QR code linked to a COA with their products. If they don’t, it is a red flag.
Even for states that require a COA, a comprehensive COA is not mandated. A comprehensive COA will not only tell you about what’s in the product, it will also look for things that you don’t want, including microbes, heavy metals, pesticides, solvents, and trace THC. This is really important, as there is evidence of contaminants including heavy metals in some CBD products on the market.2 Be sure to look for a COA that includes testing for contaminants: because hemp is a “remediation” crop, it has the ability to extract heavy metals and pollutants from the soil. This is great for cleaning the soil, but these are not things that you want to put into your body.
What Should You Look for in a COA?
To begin, you should ensure that the COA is from an independent third party lab that is different from the company selling the product. Third party testing is important because these labs are independent of the company. As such, the analysis is unaffected and unbiased by financial interests.
Then, you should ensure that the company is providing a comprehensive COA. A comprehensive COA should include several components:
1) Cannabinoid Potency: The amounts of cannabinoids present in the product are measured. The most common cannabinoids that are tested for include: CBD, CBDA, Δ-9 THC, THCA, Δ-8 THC, CBN, CBNA, CBG, CBGA,CBC, CBCA, CBDV, CBDVA, THCV, THCVA. For a CBD isolate product, the only cannabinoid present should be CBD. For broad and full spectrum products, the cannabinoid profile will vary widely depending on the plant source. Broad spectrum products should not show THC in the cannabinoid profile, while full spectrum products may show THC at less than 0.3%. The LOQ refers to the limit of quantitation, which is the lowest amount that can be detected by the test. The results of the analysis are shown as both the total cannabinoids as a percentage of the total product, as well as the amount of the cannabinoid in milligrams per gram of sample (mg/g).
2) Terpene Potency: The amounts of terpenes present in the product are measured. The most common terpenes that are tested for include: basabolol, camphene, delta-3-carene, beta-caryophyllene, caryophyllene oxide, p-cymene, eucalyptol, geraniol, alpha-humulene, isopulegol, limonene, linalool, beta-myrcene, cis- and trans-nerolidol, ocimene, alpha- and beta-pinene, alpha- and gamma-terpinene, and terpinolene. CBD isolate products will not contain any terpenes, while the terpene content of broad and full spectrum will vary widely depending on the plant source.
3) Microbes – By testing for microbial contamination, a manufacturer can determine if they are meeting desired specifications and ensure safety from food-borne diseases. Contaminants tested include: Escherichia coli (STEC), Salmonella, Total Yeast & Mold, Total Aerobic Count, Total Coliforms. The result for each of the microbial tests should be none are detected, or that levels are below the limit of quantitation.
4) Heavy Metals – Heavy metal testing analyzes 4 metals, providing accurate and legally defensible data. Heavy metals tested include: Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, Mercury.
5) Pesticides – Pesticide testing analyzes 50 commonly used pesticides. The results should show that none of the pesticides tested for have been detected
6) Residual Solvent Analysis – Residual solvent analysis tests for 11 solvents, including propane, butanes, pentane, ethanol, aceton, isopropyl alcohol, hexane, benzene, heptanes, toluene, and xylenes. The results are shown in parts per million (ppm), and all should be at a zero value.
7) Trace THC Testing – Trace testing for THC ensures that there is no THC present in the product. The limits of quantitation for this analysis are extremely low (0.001% for THC and 0.002% for THCA). The results should show that both THC or THCA are non-detectable (ND).
How do I Access the COA?
All Fringe CBD products have a QR code on our packaging. Scan that code with your phone and it will take you to the COA specific to your particular batch of product.
1) Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708–1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909
2) Thomas, Robert. (2020). https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/regulating-heavy-metal-contaminants-in-cannabis-what-can-be-learned-from-the-pharmaceutical-312494
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