Ask any CBD company CEO what keeps them up at night and they will say lab testing, or COAs (certificate of analysis). Lab testing can be expensive, and results can vary from lab to lab for the same product. Inaccurate and/or inconsistent testing can lead to loss of revenue. There are some common pitfalls regarding lab testing when you are formulating products. One of the common ones goes like this; you formulate your product, and have it tested by your trusted lab and the test comes out accurately based on your previous tests you ran on the raw material and formulation. You then sell the finished product to your customers and maybe one or more of them has the product independently third party tested just for potency verification. They use a different lab and have a different result. Who’s right?
Or how about you take your CBD Isolate over to get tested and it comes back with THC in it? Your first reaction is “not possible, it’s an isolate.” Then you realize the lab also tests for THC and most likely didn’t clean their equipment well and your isolate came back contaminated with THC. Does the lab stand by their results, or do they admit that maybe they were at fault and will retest (after they clean their equipment) for no additional charge? Or how about your CBD isolate comes back at 105% potency? These are just a few scenarios that can happen with lab testing and they can cost a company not only money but precious time.
That being said, let’s look at the WWWWW’s of lab testing…
Who should obtain lab testing? Well, everyone should know what’s in their product.
Extractors: Hemp biomass should be tested before the material is extracted into CBD or other cannabinoid oils and isolates.
Manufacturers: Raw material should be kept in quarantine until a full panel test is run to determine cannabinoid potency and safety. After that has been completed, and it’s deemed that the product is safe, it can proceed to formulation. Once a formulation has been made, it should be tested again for potency and once it’s deemed accurate, it may go into production of finished products.
Buyers: When purchasing raw material from a manufacturer/supplier,
you should always ask for the 3rd Party Full Panel COA showing the
potency of the cannabinoids, and whether or not the product you purchased is
free of residual solvents, heavy metals and pesticides.
Retail Buyer: Most CBD companies post COAs on their retail websites. If they don’t contact the company and ask for a COA showing potency for the product you purchased and a full panel test showing the safety of the raw material oil or isolate that was used to make your products.
On a side note: Some companies represent potency percentage based on just CBD alone and some base it on CBD plus the minor cannabinoids present. This varies by company so be sure to clarify if you are a buyer.
What type of test should you get? That depends on where you are in the production process. Unfortunately, there are no current testing standards for the CBD industry, so many companies skip full panel testing due to the high cost. It can run anywhere from $700 - $1000+ depending on the testing lab. A standard “full panel” test will show cannabinoid potency (to include THC, Delta 8 and Delta 9, THCA, CBD, CBDA, CBG, CBN, CBC, CBL, and others), heavy metals, residual solvents, pesticides. There are other tests for, molds, mycotoxins and terpenes that can be provided for an additional cost, which is usually passed on to the consumer as these are not standard tests, and can be expensive. If everything passes, this provides the consumer verification that the raw material is safe to make into a finished product.
When should you test? You should test at the following stages.
Raw Material: Have a full panel test run for every new batch of raw material that arrives at your facility. Make sure the samples are homogenized (heated) properly first. Since additional potency testing will come later, you are mainly ensuring that the oil/isolate is free of heavy metals, pesticides, and residual solvents.
Formulation: If you have a full panel test for the raw material, only potency is necessary for a formulation.
Finished Product: A potency test is all that is necessary after the finished product is made. This validates the original formulation potency. A QR code is commonly used on each package to trace back to the COA that should be posted online.
Where should the products be tested? There are many testing labs around the country, and new ones are popping up all of the time, as the demand for CBD grows. You should always use a reputable lab that has an ISO/IEC rating and is known for accurate testing. If possible, ask to take a tour of their facility. Ask is they test THC as well as CBD and ask if they ever have positive readings for THC in a CBD Isolate. Look for cleanliness and ask questions about limits of quantification and standards that they use. Find out what pesticides they test for and how many minor cannabinoids and terpenes they are capable of testing. This can vary widely from lab to lab and state to state. Keep in mind that not all labs have the same business ethics. There are labs out there who report inaccurate results to gain business. Be wary of lab results that show potency percentages of over 100%.