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What is a Certificate of Analysis? And how do you interpret a CoA for CBD?

Last Updated: 29/08/2020
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Most of you will have heard of CBD by now with its wealth of health benefits, but with so many new brands emerging it can be challenging to know how to assess the quality of the options available. Sadly, there is a real problem of mislabeled products in the market, and it is, therefore, crucial for consumers to do their due diligence when picking their CBD. The Certificate of Analysis is there to provide transparency and details of the cannabinoid profiles within the product and more. 

All manufacturers should send a sample from every new batch of CBD produced to a third party independent lab for testing; this will protect consumers and ensure the CBD content is as expected and labelled. 

You should always check the CoA before buying a CBD product if this is not readily available you can contact the company and they should be able to send this to you.

In this article we will go through how to read a CoA and use our one as an example for clarity.

Start with the details at the top

To begin with, all CoAs must contain the following information at the top of their page:

  • Title “Certificate of Analysis”
  • The name of the lab undertaking the test
  • Batch number – this will comes from the manufacturer
  • Date when the sample was received
  • Date when the sample got tested

Looking at our CoA for our Relief Drops CBD 6% as an example, you will find these details at the top of our CoAs as per the image below

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Image 1. CoA header for WholyMe Relief Drops 6% CBD.

Check the certificates at the bottom

To ensure the lab that is undertaking the tests conforms to standards and follows strict quality controls internally they should have some form of accreditation. 

Always check the bottom of CoAs for certifications, signatures and badges. The below image is from our sample test and shows to accreditations you may find in lab tests. 

The ilac MRA badge demonstrates that the signatories have been peer-evaluated in accordance with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17011 to demonstrate their competence and are regularly audited to maintain confidence. 

Similarly, the UKAS testing badge is provided by UKAS, the UK’s National Accreditation Body, responsible for determining, in the public interest, the technical competence and integrity of organisations such as those offering testing, calibration and certification services. 

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Image 2. CoA for WholyMe CBD, lab accreditations at bottom of certificate.

Cannabinoids          

Once you are confident you can trust the results shared, you can move on to what is certainly one of the most important parameters of the CBD CoA: the cannabinoid profile analysis.

Firstly, here you want to make sure the THC is within compliant range, this means it needs to be lower then 0.2%. This will ensure the product cannot make you “high”.

The line on the CoA that will show you this is Delta 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta 9THC), sometimes listed as “∆9 THC”. In the below example we can see the result is 0.100%, well below the compliant range. 

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Image 3. CoA for cannabinoid profile of WholyMe CBD 6% Relief Drops.

However, what we want to check is the line labelled ‘total THC’ highlighted in the below CoA, this is because this line uses a formula to account for the loss of carboxyl group which occurs during decarboxylation – naturally occurring over time. 

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Image 4. CoA for cannabinoid profile of WholyMe CBD 6% Relief Drops.Focus on Total THC content.

Although the value is now slightly higher, with 0.122% total THC content, we are still within compliant range. 

The same is true for the CBD content, the CBD content on the label includes several types of CBD (CBD, CBDVA, CBDV, CBDA), if we were to look at the total cannabinoids value for our 6% CBD we would find 6.99%, as highlighted below.

However what really interests us is the second highlighted line labelled ‘Total CBD’, similar to THC, CBD content changes over time, this formula takes that change into account and explains the potential CBD content within the product, for our 6% CBD Relief Drops it is 5.82%, that is slightly lower than our label states but nothing noticeable. 

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Image 5. CoA for cannabinoid profile of WholyMe CBD 6% Relief Drops.Focus on Total CBD content.

Safety profile

To ensure CBD product is completely safe, we test for pesticides, solvents, microbials, heavy metals, mycotoxins and foreign matters. 

The table below shows no pesticides were detected in our CoA, which is what we would expect.

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Image 6. CoA results for pesticide screening for the WholyMe Relief Drops 6%.

Furthermore, we test for heavy metals, in order to be sure we are producing very safe products we refer to the research done by the WHO on food standards and safety.

The below table was taken from JECFA – The Joint FAO-WHO Expert Committee Report on Food Additives was an international report of the World Health Organization. These levels are considered safe for human consumption.

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Image 7. Table taken from JECFA an expert committee to assess the safe levels of heavy metals, inherent within soils, for human consumption.

As one can assess from the results of our heavy metal test below, our range is well below the levels considered safe listed above. 

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Image 8. Image 4. CoA for Heavy metal content within the WholyMe 6% CBD Relief Drops.

We then test for microbial contamination. This testing is done to confirm that there is no microbial contamination of the product—there are no live bacteria or fungi. 

The results on a CoA would be in cfu/g, which is colony forming unit per gram. The test involves dilutions onto agar plates and counting the number of colonies that would form. If a dilution of 1:10 was prepared then all results would be multiplied by 10. The lowest reportable result (for 1 colony on the plate) is 10, a negative result would, therefore, be reported at <10 cfu/ml.

Pathogens such as Salmonella are given a ‘not detected/detected’ result by labs because you need a very small quantity of this bacteria to be present to cause food poisoning, therefore labs will always label it as present or not present.

Then, looking at our results on the table below, we can see that our Relief Drops have no microbial contamination.

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Image 9. CoA for microbial contamination – WholyMe Relief Drops 6% CBD have no contamination.

Terpenes

Not many companies test the terpene profile of their products. Terpenes are the substances which protect the plant and give it its unique aroma. Terpenes are studied for their health benefits as well. 

We extensively test our oils to ensure they are rich in terpenes to maximize their effectiveness and provide you with a full overview of the content within our products.

Terpene profile results:

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Image 10. CoA for WholyMe 6% CBD Relief Drops terpene profiles.

Finally, we also assess the levels of fatty acids and Vitamin E, which are naturally occurring in the hemp plant, we do this to ensure we have a rich and potent extract containing all the cannabinoids, terpenes, fatty acids and minerals that work together to provide a whole body and mind soothing experience. 

Conclusion

There are a lot of different CBDs available in the market today, they are excellent for wellbeing and can be hugely beneficial. However, it is important to check the CoA results when choosing your CBD, so you can be confident you are taking a good quality, potent product.

You can find the full results of these tests for our Relief Drops on our product page.

Published On: 14/08/2020
Published By: Celine Ivari

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