CBD lab tests: how to read them

COA-potency
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CBD lab tests are critically important because the CBD marketplace is flooded with trash. It’s painful to say, but important to know. Even some of the name brands you have come to recognize don’t tell consumers everything they should about what’s in their products.

Thankfully, industry experts and regulators have agreed upon a panel of tests that are critical to ensuring the safety of CBD products. These tests are important because CBD oil is a concentrate, so any impurities or toxins will be concentrated, too. That’s not good.

While these tests are important, it’s equally important that they are conducted by a third-party laboratory to ensure impartial results. And, the lab should be ISO certified to the ISO 2017 standard to ensure accuracy and professionalism. These labs issue reports that are called “certificates of analysis” or “CoA’s.” Any reputable CBD brand will provide easy access to CoA’s for every batch of product they make. The best way to do this is with a QR code on the back of every product. Any brand that only issues in-house CoA’s can’t be trusted because equipment can be tweaked to produce almost any result.

That’s why the new industry standard for CBD safety is QR codes on every CBD product that lead to third-party lab test results (or CoA’s) — a standard that Cornbread Hemp meets across the board. So, any consumer can use his or her smartphone to read the QR code, which takes them to Cornbread Hemp’s lab reports. But now that consumer faces another problem: how to read them. These CoA’s can be confusing. There are basically two kinds of tests: potency and safety, which we will explain down below.

Cornbread Hemp’s lab tests

For our lab tests, Cornbread Hemp partnered with Digipath Labs in Las Vegas as our third-party testing laboratory for several reasons: the desert climate keeps the equipment well calibrated; Nevada has some of the strictest testing standards in the country; and Digipath has distinguished itself as one of the best laboratories in Nevada.

We have annotated our most recent CoA from Digipath from late July 2019 to show you how best to read our CoA, and the CoA’s of our competitors as you comparison shop based on safety and professionalism. When we see a problem in our tests, we track it down.

How to read lab tests, or CoA’s

There are two types of tests done on CBD products: potency and safety. Our Digipath lab results, seen below, come in a two-page report. On page one, Digipath prints the results of our potency tests with a box in the bottom right indicating which safety and quality tests have been conducted. Those results for the safety and quality tests are then reported on page two of the report.

CBD lab test for potency

Is your CBD product as potent as it claims? Does the milligrams of CBD on the label match the lab report? This is always the first place to look to see if a CBD product’s formation is correct, or close to correct, or way off target. As you can see above, the label on our Cornbread Hemp CBD oil says 750 mg, and our potency test came back at 767.9 mg. Oops, we went a little over.

CBD lab tests for cannabinoids

Is your CBD product full spectrum or made from inferior CBD isolate? Only this cannabinoid test can tell for sure. At Cornbread Hemp, we are really proud that we can distill our hemp extract to 75% CBD yet still retain a full spectrum of minor cannabinoids, as you can see above in the Digipath test. In addition to CBD, Cornbread Hemp contains CBDa, CBDV, CBN, CBC, and yes — a legal amount of THC.

CBD lab tests for safety & quality

In addition to potency, you want to make sure your CBD products are safe as well as effective. The “Safety & Quality Tests” box on the bottom right of page one of the Digipath CoA shows which tests were conducted in addition to the potency results. The testing template here was designed for smokeable cannabis flower, so not all these tests apply to CBD products. But you can see above the Cornbread Hemp ran tests for pesticides, residual solvents, microbials, heavy metals, and mycotoxins. Results below.

CBD lab tests for pesticides

Digipath runs a 22-panel test on a range of known pesticides. But Kentucky hemp is not at risk of pesticide contamination because the Kentucky Department of Agriculture does a great job regulating the Kentucky hemp crop. Part of that regulation is a strict prohibition against using any pesticides on any hemp grown in Kentucky. For that reason, all Kentucky hemp can be guaranteed to be pesticide-free. But still, to double-check, we had Digipath run this 22-panel pesticide test. No surprise we came up clean.

CBD lab tests for residual solvents

Some CBD products are extracted using solvents like butane or propane, which is gross. You don’t want that. Cornbread Hemp solved this problem by extracting our hemp with supercritical CO2 instead of butane. We place CO2, or carbon dioxide gas, under extreme pressure and that turns it into a supercritical liquid. That supercritical CO2 acts as a solvent to extract the hemp oil from the biomass. When the pressure is released, the CO2 evaporates into the air, leaving zero residue. Even still, to assure our customers that we don’t have any residual solvents lingering in our CBD oil, we run this test to ensure we are clean.

CBD lab tests for microbials and bacteria

Some untrustworthy CBD brands must make their products in a barn next to cows. Because enough CBD products test positive for salmonella, E. Coli, or other bacteria that every reputable brand must test for these to ensure they are safe. We test our products for salmonella, E. Coli, aerobic bacteria, and bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria.

CBD lab tests for mycotoxins

Mycotoxins come from contamination by fungus or mold. No one wants that. We test for aflatoxins and Ochratoxin A. Our test for Ochratoxin A yielded a result of 2.20 parts per billion, which is just above the detection limit of 2.0 ppb, and well below the strict Nevada state limits of 20 ppb.

CBD lab tests for heavy metals

The hemp plant has a natural ability to remove impurities from the soil, by drawing them up into the hemp stalk. For this reason, hemp is a perfect plant for phytoremediation projects to clean brown fields. But you don’t want hemp contaminated with heavy metals in your CBD products. That’s why we test for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. Three of the four came back below the detectable level of 1.0 part per billion. But we found a detectable level of lead at 54 PPB. While this result is well below the strict Nevada state level of 1,200 PPB, we are working to track down the source of the contamination, even at this small level.

At Cornbread Hemp, safety, quality, and potency are our top priorities. These CBD lab tests prove it.

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