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How to Understand a Certificate of Analysis (COA)
Purchasing hemp extracts can be a bit overwhelming for even seasoned hemp extract consumers. More often than not, when consumers see a Certificate of Analysis (COA) mentioned on a hemp extract company’s website, consumers assume the brand is legitimate and looking out for the safety and health of customers.
However, due to the lack of regulation in the industry, many hemp-derived companies are cutting corners and posting false test results for the sake of profit. For this reason, it’s crucial for consumers to thoroughly analyze the COA for any product they are considering as it allows individuals to confirm what’s actually in a hemp extract product. By reviewing the document, consumers can get a thorough look into the ingredients that are in a hemp extract and how the ingredients are processed.
But, the COA isn’t the only certification that consumers should request and review. There are two other documents that a reputable hemp extract company will have.
- The Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification is another credential that ensures a company’s products are consistent with quality standards. The GMP relates to therapeutic, medicinal, and cosmetic products as well as active pharmaceutical ingredients. The Health Sciences Authority, which issues the GMP, only provides the certification to manufacturing facilities that meet satisfactory compliance through a thorough audit. As of right now, CBD companies are not allowed this certification. We are audited for our Food Manufacturing practices and certified under the state’s food safety program. If you see a GMP certification on a CBD company currently, it is the building that is certified not the product.
- Food Manufacturing and Safety Certification: The Department of Food and Safety issues this certification in the state where the establishment is set up. The department conducts audits for the safety and cleanliness of the process of manufacturing and food production. CBD sublinguals and edibles, for example, fall under this category. If a hemp extract company has this certification, consumers should know the brand is held under strict regulations for safety and cleanliness and so are its farms and extractors, as all suppliers of the certified products are required to possess the certification as well.
In fact, cosmetic and food companies are required to have some or all of these certificates, including safety data sheets, and other compliance regulatory paperwork. So technically, any consumer can call a cosmetic company and request a COA or GMP/food manufacturing certification. If for any reason the company is unable to produce the documents, it can be shut down.
The step-by-step process that research companies use to test hemp extracts
While it’s essential for consumers to purchase products from hemp extract companies that have specific certifications in place, it’s not easy to understand what those documents mean.
This fact is especially true when consumers are looking at a hemp extract’s third-party test results, which are indicated on the COA. If a consumer has never viewed a COA before, it’s not immediately clear which research labs conducted the third-party tests or what process they used, especially when some hemp extract companies falsify their documents to hide information.
However, there are several different analytical labs that test the quality and potency of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytonutrients in the hemp plant. For the most part, research labs use high-performance liquid chromatography, also known as high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). HPLC equipment ensures researchers that regardless of the stability or volatility of a solid or liquid analyte, the compounds will still separate so the test can produce information about potency levels, solvents, molds, and bacteria.
However, here at Kat’s Naturals, we’ve actually developed our own step-by-step process to produce top of the line, high-quality hemp extracts:
- We have all our farmers produce a detailed profile of cannabinoids, terpenes, pesticides, and heavy metals tests. All four tests must be tested in third-party labs to ensure accuracy and purity.
- Once approved, the extraction process begins, and we request another round of tests, which are purchased by the extractor. This round of tests check the potency of cannabinoids and terpenes. The results of these tests will determine if and how much the extractor needs to dilute the flower to make a safe and quality product.
- Next, the extractor conducts a solvents test, which ensures there are no solvents in the product. However, if an extractor does use butane or ethanol, it must be cleaned out by their Rotavap to ensure there are no remaining substances that could potentially harm consumers.
- After the material gets to us, we can begin formulations. However, we still do another set of tests. We test for heavy metals and check the potency of cannabinoids and terpenes one last time to remain as accurate as possible.
- Finally, we conduct a microbes test to ensure there wasn’t any contamination in the product when it was delivered, and there wasn’t any contamination in our machines. Afterward, we do another residual solvents test to make sure the research labs provided accurate information.
How to successfully analyze a hemp extract’s third-party test results
Once hemp extract companies have worked with farmers, research labs, and extractors to test their products, the results are illustrated on each product’s COA.
The research lab will indicate the test results on a COA in one of two ways: “milligrams per gram” or “percentage per gram.” The two measurements are at the very top of the test results. However, before examining the results, it’s important for consumers to consider two key factors.
First, when someone adds an agent to any analysis, the molecules will break apart, and a machine will analyze that. Second, there’s always an allowance for variation by 3% on either side.
For example, if a consumer is reviewing a COA that indicates a hemp extract has 50 milligrams per milliliter, it should suggest an acceptable range between 46 to 54. However, if the test results indicate a percentage per gram, then the results are based on volume. In this case, the consumer will see a decimal like .5, for example, which means there’s a .5 percentage of a particular ingredient in the product.
Now, the COA for a full-spectrum hemp extract should be analyzed a little differently. When consumers review those test results, they will see a variation between the total percentage of cannabinoids and milligrams per milliliters versus the CBD percentage in the table. For example, consumers will see CBD along with all the other cannabinoids that make up the final profile. At the end of the column you will see a “total cannabinoids” that is the number you want to compare to what the mg/ml of the product is supposed to be.
Being able to thoroughly analyze a COA, whether it’s for a full-spectrum or CBD hemp extract, can help consumers differentiate between inferior products and honest, safe, high-quality remedies. As mentioned before, the COA is the only way to know what’s actually in a hemp extract.
Reputable companies will take the time and use the money and resources to test their products and seek credible third-party testing. But without the effort, certifications, and lab tests, the safety and quality of the hemp extract is compromised and should not be purchased.
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