How to Read a Certificate of Analysis (COA)

certificate of analysis

In a competitive market, consumers rarely have the assurance that their CBD product is an authentic one. Fortunately, a Certificate of Analysis or COA is now made available by reputable brands to their customers. This helps regulate products that are being sold left and right to unassuming consumers who are not made aware of the ingredient use.

For most neophytes in the cannabis world, looking for the right products can be a confusing experience at best and a dangerous gamble at worse.

Confusing because there are just so many to choose from and dangerous because not all can make it with true hemp extracts or sometimes can mix with filler components.

Not to mention, the CBD industry lacks a specific set standard, so vague and incorrectly labeled products run rampant. No need to panic or feel intimidated. This article will help you what to watch out for when reading labels such as COAs. 

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What is a Certificate of Analysis?

First things first, a Certificate of Analysis is essentially a laboratory report that lists the chemical makeup and content. For CBD oil products, a COA report would contain cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds. The main importance of these reports is to verify label information as accurate and safe for human consumption.

In the context of hemp products, a Certificate of Analysis will also indicate that the hemp-derived extract used in the product contains less than the legal amount of 0.3% THC by dry weight.

CBD Isolates’ COA should also state non-detected levels of the cannabinoid. The tests carried out also look for dangerous compounds and heavy metals or pesticides and herbicides.

Keep in mind that labels and COAs are not the same. Labels are simply the list of ingredients on a product’s bottle or container. Sometimes they can also enumerate on the company’s product web page.

A COA is only done by a third-party laboratory, not to associate with the hemp brand, can credit to perform unbiased and careful testing and review of the CBD oil.

How to Verify a Certificate of Analysis

Knowing what a COA is and that you should be looking for it are two different things. Most reputable brands will have their lab reports readily available. Although, some will only show them to customers who request them.

Not that you know what the lab reports are for, try asking the customer service representative of your favorite hemp brand if you can see theirs.

Your work doesn’t end there, though. After requesting the COA, there is the matter of verifying all the information listed in it. Frankly, there is no sure way to go about this unless you contact the third-party laboratory that performed the test. Even then, these labs are usually under contract to keep the details of their clients confidential. 

However, there are some things you can take note of when looking over a COA and see if they are listed in the report. While some labels may vary, a typical Certificate of Analysis will usually have key information on the product’s testing methods, the test results, and the approval signature and date. Dates, product batch, and lot numbers should also be present.

The chain of custody from the manufacturer’s company name, address, contact details, and other identifiers should also be provided. This is done so all materials can be of use in making the product and can trace back throughout the supply chain.

These are just some of the basics. You might want to rethink buying from that brand if you see some vital information lacking.

CoAs summarize key information on product quality testing, including test conditions and parameters, specifications and requirements, results of tests (both qualitative and quantitative), and approval signature and date.

They also provide information on the chain of custody. This includes such basics as the manufacturer’s name, address, telephone number/email, and other identifiers that allow the material to be tracked throughout the supply chain.

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How to Read Impurities on a Certificate of Analysis

While the lab reports list all of the CBD oil’s components, this would include the possible harmful compounds that may have been included. It can be intentional or not, in the final product. By nature, hemp is a phytoremediator or a natural vacuum for chemicals and heavy toxins out of soil and groundwater.

This is good for those who intend to use it for that reason. It is bad for those who want to consume hemp and its byproducts.

You have to look out for these impurities in a product’s COA. This is to ensure that the method used to extract the CBD oil was safe and thorough enough to leave out any possible toxins that can be harmful to the human body.

A heavy metal analysis chart indicates all metals detected in the test, together with their name and chemical symbols.

“Units” are of use for measurement size, usually in micrograms per kilogram. You may also find the abbreviated “conc.” which stands for concentration, the levels of the metals measured in the product. 

For example, the lead should have an allowed limit when detected. “Ingestion” is the amount that you can determine by the Department of Public Health to be the safe limit to ingest daily.

Another important part of reading impurities is pesticide analysis. This chart lists several common pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful chemical substances.

The “limits” column is the maximum amount the DPH allows for human consumption. These may vary depending on local state laws or specific safety regulations mandated by a government department.

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How Can I Tell if a Certificate of Analysis is Fake?

As the market becomes more and more ruthless, some businesses are not above faking their products’ Certificate of Analysis to get ahead of the curve.

Apart from asking for a COA and knowing how to read it, you must also be on the lookout for possible fake lab reports. It is no easy thing to do either, especially if you are new to the whole thing.

However, it is always better to be safe now than be sorry later. If you detect any inconsistencies, go with your instinct and look further into it.

For example, if the number of cannabinoids listed is fewer than expected, ask the CBD company where they source their hemp plants. Also, check for THC levels, if they stick to legal levels of 0.3 percent.

Strange charts or missing ones could sign that it is fake. At the very least can alter by someone unauthorized to do so. Also, check if an approval signature and date is anywhere on the report, as this can be a good proof as any that it is legitimate.

If the test is outdated, ask for a more recent one. Should they fail to provide it, rethink buying from the brand.

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Where Can I Find CBD Oil to Buy That Has a Certificate of Analysis?

Many reputable CBD brands already have their Certificate of Analysis before putting their products on sale. They sometimes capitalize on this to ensure buyers that there is the best quality of hemp oil extract on the market.

How do you find CBD oil that has a COA? Simply ask from the company you’re eyeing to buy from. 

While asking questions can sometimes be intimidating, you’ll find that most businesses are readily available to cater to curious potential buyers’ inquiries.

Good CBD companies are no different, and they might offer the COA even before you ask for it. If you don’t have a specific brand in mind, search engine platforms are your friends. 

Simply look up hemp and CBD shops that have many good reviews from previous customers. Browse their websites or use their live chat (if available) and ask for any information you want before purchasing anything.

When you find the COA is up to standard and is genuine, you can now start researching which CBD product would suit you best. Those products include tincture, pill, topicals, gummies, or others.

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Summary

In an industry that is rapidly growing with limited regulation from authorities, it is extremely important that, as a consumer, you know exactly what you are paying for. Certificates of Analysis provide transparency for consumers. It also gives a safety net for manufacturers that the CBD product is made with quality and safety in mind.

Although COAs vary in format or appearance depending on the laboratory conducting the test, the final report’s basic information should be present. These include up to date testing, batch numbers, extraction processes used, and all compounds detected.

Companies that refuse to disclose COAs should be avoided at all costs. Invest your money in legitimate brands only.

Read More About COAs

What is a COA for CBD?

In the context of CBD products, COAs list all the other compounds present in the final product. These include other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Heavy metals and possible toxins that the raw hemp plant may have absorbed during cultivation and passed on to the CBD oil will also be listed.

Why do we need a certificate of analysis?

The third-party laboratory reports are essential for any consumer thinking of purchasing not just CBD oil but also other products. COAs are not exclusive to the cannabis industry. It is within your right to ask for COAs to know how your products are made and down to the last compound present.

What is the purpose of a certificate of analysis?

An authentic COA’s main purpose is to inform buyers, such as yourself, of the list of compounds and components of any product that has undergone review and testing. It will also list down any possible harmful toxins that may be present and pose a danger to consumers.

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