For a CBD brand, being able to show a CBD certificate of analysis (COA) instills confidence and trust in your product. We'll cover what a COA is, how to read it, and what to look for. As leading industry experts in all things hemp, no one knows better than Manitoba Harvest how important quality and transparency are when it comes to choosing a CBD oil. We also know that there can be a lot of information to absorb when you’re reading a CBD product’s Certificate of Analysis (COA). So let’s break down what a
What is a CBD Certificate of Analysis and How to Read One?
From tinctures to tea bags, CBD has taken the health and wellness market by storm. Consumers worldwide have eagerly embraced CBD, driving a market worth an estimated $2.8 billion in 2020. But the rapid growth of this new industry has resulted in a Wild West-style expansion that has brought with it many sub-par products. A 2017 study found that 26% of tested CBD products contained less CBD than advertised and over 21% of products contained detectable levels of THC. In response, reputable CBD product manufacturers began offering a CBD certificate of analysis (COA) to help instill consumer confidence in their products.
This post is designed for brands that work with CBD wholesalers or manufacturers. It will explain what a CBD isolate certificate of analysis (COA) is, how to read one, and what to look for in each section. We’ll point out potential red flags that may indicate your supplier isn’t producing high-quality products and explain how to obtain a certificate of analysis.
What is a Certificate of Analysis?
A certificate of analysis is a report from an accredited laboratory that details the chemical analysis of a substance, in this case, a CBD product. Typically, every batch of CBD product is tested individually, and a COA is generated for each run. Nearly all CBD certificates of analysis are done using a third-party lab. Not surprisingly, many consumers view a COA completed by the manufacturer themselves as equivalent to the fox watching the hen house. There are many accredited laboratories that offer CBD testing services, making it easy for manufacturers to offer consumers an unbiased CBD analysis.
Many states require cannabis and CBD product labels to include a custom QR code that links to the COA, so be sure to check with your local state regulations when designing your labels.
How to Read a CBD Certificate of Analysis
Knowing what the data in each section of the COA means is important. Although there may be some slight differences in how the lab results are reported, these lab reports all follow a similar format. Here are the basics on how to pull the most critical information from a CBD certificate of analysis.
There are a variety of cannabinoid compounds in the hemp plant. If you’re selling full-spectrum CBD oil, your full-spectrum certificate of analysis should list all the detectable cannabinoids, including CBD, CBDV, and CBG. This section will also include THC, the cannabinoid you don’t want if your product isn’t labeled and legally sold as cannabis — at least not at levels that exceed .3% weight. As you’re scrolling down the list of compounds, you may notice the initials ND next to some of the compounds. That’s short for “non-detect,” lab-speak for “there was so little of this compound present the equipment couldn’t pick it up.”
This column is just to the right of the list of cannabinoid types. The weight percentage lists the percentage by weight of each cannabinoid. The reported weight is the weight of just the product itself, minus the packaging.
The next column reports the concentration of each cannabinoid as part of the whole product. The concentration is measured in milligrams per gram (mg/g). Especially for CBD oils, the concentration column makes it fairly easy to double-check that you’re getting what you’ve paid for. For example, if you’ve purchased a product weighing 50 grams that advertises it contains a total of 600mg of CBD, you should see a concentration of 12mg of CBD per gram.
Heavy Metal Analysis
Ingesting heavy metals in amounts that exceed safe levels can make you sick. That’s why many manufacturers test for these as part of their CBD certificate of analysis. In this section, there are two important places to look. The first is the tested concentration level of each heavy metal in the list. This number tells you how much of each metal was found during testing. The second is the Ingestion column under the Use Limits heading. This number is the maximum amount the government considers safe to consume. The tested concentration level should always be far below the ingestion use limit.
You aren’t the only one interested in hemp-based products — insects are big fans, too. That’s why CBD certificates of analysis often contain test results for commonly used pesticides. Results in this section look similar to the results for heavy metals. Running across each row is the name of the pesticide tested, the level at which it was detected, the acceptable level limits, and whether the results indicate a pass.
CBD COA Red Flags
You can learn a lot from a COA, both good and bad. Results from a CBD oil certificate of analysis can raise concerns about the quality of a manufacturer. Here are three signs your CBD products aren’t up to standard.
1. Too Much or Too Little THC
Too much THC may mean you’re selling illegal products. If the level of THC exceeds .3% weight, that’s a problem for products not labeled as including THC, especially in states where THC is illegal. Quality CBD products have THC concentrations below the legal limit. A quality manufacturer also ensures the concentrations of CBD are as advertised. CBD products are expensive, and a COA is an easy way to know you’re getting what you’ve paid for.
2. “Full-Spectrum” Products Missing Cannabinoids
One of the draws of full-spectrum CBD oils is getting all of the other cannabinoids that occur alongside the CBD compound. If you’re expecting a full-spectrum product and don’t see other cannabinoids like CBDa, CBN, and CBC listed at detectable levels, that’s not a good sign.
3. Lab Results Completed In-House
The highest-quality manufacturers send a sample from each batch they produce to an accredited, third-party lab for analysis. Having an independent entity vouch for your product is a lot more convincing than asking consumers to trust the results from an in-house lab.
Why a CBD COA is Essential for Selling Your Product
Savvy consumers expect to see a CBD certificate of analysis for the products they purchase. Lab results verifying the safety and quality of each batch have become industry standard. Most COAs for CBD products can be accessed from the manufacturer’s website or via a QR code printed on the product packaging itself. For those selling CBD products, making it easy for potential customers to access the results of the CBD analysis is very important and can make the difference between making a sale or losing one.
Evidence of Quality Boosts Consumer Confidence
In the CBD industry, not every manufacturer is a quality producer. Companies selling CBD products have come to rely on CBD certificates of analysis as an important way to demonstrate the quality of the products that they’re selling. Consumers are more likely to buy your products when they know that a non-biased, commercial laboratory has independently verified the quality and claims made by the manufacturer. That’s a win for you and your customers.
We’ve worked with a variety of companies using CBD wholesale distributors, helping them create packaging labels that stand out. Our team is happy to answer any questions you have about CBD labeling and help you choose the best type of label for your CBD products.
How to Read a CBD Certificate of Analysis
As leading industry experts in all things hemp, no one knows better than Manitoba Harvest how important quality and transparency are when it comes to choosing a CBD oil. We also know that there can be a lot of information to absorb when you’re reading a CBD product’s Certificate of Analysis. So let’s break down what a Certificate of Analysis is, why it’s important, and what you can learn from it.
What is a Certificate of Analysis?
If you only remember one thing about buying CBD oil, let it be this: always look for a Certificate of Analysis, or COA. No CBD oil company is worth your time if they do not offer – in a clear, easy-to-find format – a third-party tested Certificate of Analysis for every batch of products they make.
Why is a COA so important? Hemp is naturally a bioaccumulator, meaning it easily absorbs substances from the earth. That might include pesticides and other harmful chemicals. The extraction method that a CBD oil company uses can also affect the quality of its products: some extraction methods and carrier oils can lead to volatile, inconsistent products or unsafe chemical residues. We are proud to us a CO2 extraction process that is free of solvents and harmful residues and organic Coconut MCT Oil as our carrier oil.
Our Product Testing Page makes it quick and easy to look up the lot number of your CBD oil product – oils, softels, and CBD protein powders all have lot numbers (located on the bottom of every container of Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract with CBD).
You type that lot number into our Product Testing Page, et voilà, a COA! The information you’ll find in a COA can be broken down into six major categories. Let’s look at each of them:
This section of the COA details precisely which cannabinoids are present in this batch. Here, you can see that CBD is the most present cannabinoid, and there is less than .005% THC, which occurs naturally in hemp – that’s far less than the maximum 0.3% THC that can legally be present per the 2018 Farm Bill.
The “profile” section shows that you’re getting all the goodness of CBD with less than .01% THC.
We love terpenes! You love terpenes! And there are so many great ones in every batch of Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract. This section of the COA breaks down which ones are present and in what quantities. We encourage you to read the blog post linked above to read about the benefits of terpenes, and to do your own research and look up terpene names to learn more.
Microbiological and Mycotoxins
The “microbiological” and “mycotoxins” sections’ job is to assure you that your Hemp Extract product is free from harmful microorganisms. Mycotoxins that come from fungus are commonly found in plants – but you definitely don’t want them in the hemp extract you’ve made part of your daily routine, and our CO2 extraction process removes them safely and effectively. Microorganisms like bacteria, yeast, and mold are an important safety concern – as they should be for any reputable CBD company – and Manitoba Harvest adds steps in the manufacturing processes to ensure that Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) are followed to ensure these harmful microorganisms do not get introduced to the product.
Other contaminants are commonly found in plants, such as solvents, pesticides, and heavy metals. Once again, you can trust our CO2 extraction process to remove all those unwanted contaminants. Hang on, you might think, what’s up with those hemp plants having so many contaminants? Good question! The hemp plant is a natural bioaccumulator – meaning it easily absorbs substances from the soil, including pesticides and harmful chemicals. Scientists are even studying how well hemp plants could be used to naturally clean harmful substances from soil all over the planet! That’s why our extraction process is so important: it rids the hemp extract of those chemicals while still maintaining a stable, consistent product with no chemical residues.
“Organoleptic” is a science-y word for the sensory experiences that food and other ingestibles create. Our Organoleptic profile shows consistent shape, size, and color – the organoleptic profile on the COAs of our CBD oil drops and sprays also note odor, and the COAs for our CBD protein powder indicates flavor.
This section can vary a little depending on the product, but in short we want to assure you are getting exactly the amount of Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract with CBD that we say you are. Information here may include the fill volume of a bottle of oil drops, the fill weight of a CBD softgel, and a softgel’s “rupture time” (or how quickly it begins dissolving into your system).
We stand behind every single Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract with 100% confidence, and encourage you to spend some time with a batch report of any product you purchase. We know that you deserve the kind of transparency and peace of mind that a Certificate of Analysis offers so you know you’re getting an absolutely premium CBD product.
Check out a Certificate of Analysis by visiting our Batch Reports page! If you have any questions, that’s what we’re here for. Give us a call at 1-(800)-665-HEMP(4367), or use our contact page to reach out.
The information provided is for informational purposes only. None of the information provided here should be considered medical advice or treatment recommendations. Consult with your health care provider if you have questions about incorporating CBD into your wellness regimen.