Briefly, how to Read a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for

Industrial Hemp Derived CBD Products?

What is a certificate of analysis?

A certificate of analysis (COA) is a lab report on the chemical compounds within that specific product.  Industrial Hemp derived products, show cannabinoids compounds,  pesticides, moisture, heavy metals, etc. 


Cannabinoid compounds are the THC, CBD, CBD, THCa, CBDV, etc. There are 400 cannabinoid compounds, but industrial standards currently examine only those most abundant or so we know at this time.


COA’s are used to verify the product contents are matched to the advertised or marketed product. These reports are important for verifying that hemp extracts have less than  the federally legal .3% THC limit, as determined by the Industrial Hemp definition. 


Why are COAs important?

Labeling alone is not reliable, especially when sold online to customers who do not fully understand the convoluted regulatory status of cannabis sativa L. in traditional or industrial form.  COA’s are now a mandatory standard for reliable, law-abiding hemp manufacturers, creating transparency for consumers and regulators.  QR codes link directly to these COA showing all required dates.

How do I read a COA?

The first thing you may notice on a COA is that the company who performed the lab test is not the same company who is selling the product. This is called a ‘third party’ test required to ensure transparency in product contents. On the top, there is information identifying the product and hemp cultivation batch from which it came. Also on the top are the address and contact person of the company selling the product is stated.

The QR code in the top center can be scanned by anyone to verify the authenticity of the report. It links to the lab that performed the analysis so consumers can cross check to make sure the COA was not fabricated. The authorization signature is provided by the third party lab manager to verify the report is correct and authentic.


Cannabinoid Profile

The cannabinoid profile  tells consumers exactly which cannabinoids are present and at what potency. The ID column of the chart indicates which cannabinoids were tested for. D9-THC is the psychoactive component which must be lower than .3 weight % (middle column) in order for it to be legal. ‘ND’ stands for ‘non-detect’ meaning there was such a miniscule amount, if any, in the sample that the laboratory instruments could not detect it. Essentially this means it is not present in the product.  


Heavy Metal Analysis

The heavy metal analysis chart indicates which metals were tested for with the chemical symbol and name. ‘Conc.’ is the concentration of the metal measured in the sample. ‘Units’ refers to the measurement size, in this case micrograms per kilogram (1,000,000,000 micrograms in 1 kilogram). MDL is the lower limit of detection for the lab instruments. ‘Use Limits’, the most important of which being ‘Ingestion’, is the amount determined by the state Department of Public Health and U.S. Pharmacopeia that is safe to ingest per day. In the case of this report, lead is the only metal detected and it is well below the allowed limit. 11 micrograms per kilogram were detected while the standardized safety limit is 1000.


Pesticide Analysis

Another report in the COA is the pesticide analysis, which lists a number of common pesticides tested for in the sample. The unit in this case is ‘ppb’ or parts per billion. LLD is the “lower limit of detection” based on each specific pesticide, and the ‘Limits’ column is the maximum amount allowed for consumption based on safety regulations established in the State of California (these values may vary slightly depending on the specific state or federal guidelines identified in the report). The ‘Status’ column indicates PASS if the sample is under the legal limit or NO PASS if the levels are above the limit. In this report, no pesticides were detected.

Terpene Profile

The terpene profile analysis shows which terpenes were detected in the sample and the relative amount of each by weight percent. Terpenes are what give hemp products their unique flavors and aromas. The variation in kind and abundance can give consumers information on how it may smell or taste. More information on terpenes and their role in hemp can be found in our blog ‘What are Terpenes?

Don’t Pay Without the COA

In an industry which is quickly expanding with limited regulation, it is extremely important that as a consumer, you know exactly what you are purchasing. Certificates of analysis provide transparency and assurance to consumers so they can be confident in what they are buying. Although COAs vary in appearance depending on the lab, the basic information presented in this article should be present on any third party COA. Contact information for both the producer and the lab should be present in order to verify authenticity. Dates and product batch numbers should be listed so consumers can make sure the report is up to date and that the specific batch they are purchasing was the same batch that was actually tested. The cannabinoid profile should match the product description.

THC-Free broad spectrum hemp should have CBD, other cannabinoids such as CBG or CBN, but non-detect levels of THC. Full spectrum hemp extracts should have many cannabinoids including D9-THC, as long as the THC weight % is below .3%. The COA should also be used to verify the potency of the product. Heavy metal and pesticide analysis can be used to ensure that the hemp which product was extracted from was grown safely and is safe to consume. Companies which do not provide certificates of analysis should be avoided because their products could have contamination issues. If the COAs are not provided or are not up to date, it is important to request the most recent COA before purchasing hemp extracts.

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