What is a Certificate of Analysis and why is it important?
In the hemp, herbal, and supplemental industries, a Certificate of Analysis provided by a third-party laboratory can help guarantee that the products you purchase are safe, high quality, and consistent with the label. Reputable companies will offer a Certificate of Analysis on all their products; however, these lab reports can sometimes be puzzling to read and interpret.
It is important as a consumer to understand these lab reports in order to ensure that every hemp product you purchase is of the quality and content that you expect.
Glossary of Certificate of Analysis Terms
Before we get into the certificate itself, let’s break down some commonly used terms in the hemp industry and on the Certificate of Analysis.
This is sometimes also listed as a cannabinoid breakdown. This is a list of the naturally occurring cannabinoid compounds in the sampled product, listed in percentages.
The water activity expresses how a product’s water content will react with microorganisms. The higher this is, the more microorganisms can grow. A rate of .60 or less means microorganisms cannot proliferate.
The moisture content is a measurement of the total water contained in the product.
Third Party Testing
Third-party testing refers to companies sending their products to an unbiased lab to confirm content and safety.
Terpenes are aromatic oils created by the hemp plant, as well as other plants like conifers. Terpenes are responsible for the scent, much of the taste, and some health benefits of hemp.
Pesticides / Herbicides
Pesticides and herbicides are chemicals used in some farming operations to keep pests and weeds at bay. Our hemp is grown with organic practices and will be free of pesticides and herbicides.
Heavy metals can be harmful to humans. These should be ND on a Certificate of Analysis.
Some extraction methods use harsh solvents. A Certificate of Analysis will show if any of these solvents are present in the final product.
We test to ensure that microbes, like those that cause salmonella or e. coli are absent from our final products.
The mycotoxins test looks for metabolites from fungi that can cause illness in humans.
Not detected. This shorthand is often used on Certificate of Analysis to say that a test did not pick up anything in a particular category.
How to Read a Certificate of Analysis
The header of the Certificate of Analysis should contain information about the lab. If you ever feel unsure of the authenticity of the report, many reputable companies offer a QR code to scan and view the report directly on their website. View the company information, phone number, and their address in the header and advocate for your own safety by looking into the lab online.
Results at a glance
Some Certificates of Analysis will include a summary after the header. This will break down the most sought-after information, such as the percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, plus if the product passes basic safety metrics for water activity, moisture, and pesticides.
The potency section breaks down the cannabinoids in the hemp product. Each lot and product will have a unique cannabinoid breakdown. You’ll see each cannabinoid and their potency percentage by weight. You’ll want to ensure that tetrahydrocannabinol is listed as below .3%, as that is the legal limit to be considered hemp.
It’s important to also check that other cannabinoids outside of cannabidiol are present if you are buying a full spectrum or broad-spectrum product. If the product is listed as an isolate, only cannabidiol (or the beneficial cannabinoid advertised) will be present.
Pesticides should be listed as “pass” or “ND (non-detectable).” Reputable hemp will be grown with organic practices and be free of any pesticides.
Safe hemp will be listed as “pass” or “ND (non-detectable).”
Some products will include a terpene analysis, but not all. The terpene analysis will show you the percentage by weight and milligrams per gram of terpene presence. Many hemp enthusiasts, especially those who are interested in the health benefits of smoking hemp or using hemp flower, are interested in the terpene breakdown. Each terpene has different scents, flavors, and potential health properties.
The footer of a Certificate of Analysis should always include a date and signature from the science officer that conducted the test.
The Certificate of Analysis is chock full of valuable information for consumers. To advocate for your safety, understand the cannabinoid content, and see a breakdown of terpenes before purchasing, it’s a best practice to always view lab reports from any hemp company you choose to do business with.