5 third-party tests every hemp and CBD company needs to conduct
From farmers to oil extractors, ingredient buyers to retailers, there are many steps from the cannabis seed to the retailer—and everyone along the value chain needs to responsibly employ tests to vouchsafe hemp and CBD ingredient and product quality.
Some organizations are stepping up to implement testing methods, with the hope being that harmonized testing methods will make for uniform quality standards in the fast-growing hemp industry.
The American Herbal Products Association was first out of the gate, forming a cannabis committee eight long years ago.
“Some board members were concerned,” said AHPA president Michael McGuffin. “They thought we’ll lose our credibility in Congress.”
Instead, AHPA helped early adopters navigate this new legal industry with white papers and other guidance for everything from labeling and laboratory operations to Prop. 65 and cannabis products.
New to the game is the U.S. Hemp Authority, its mission to certify best practices for growers and processors of hemp.
Finished product brands can earn the U.S. Hemp Authority seal. It shows consumers that the product was evaluated and certified from the field to production stage and bottle. It’s seen as an important piece of industry self-regulation.
“We’ll have to see if consumers care,” said McGuffin. “If Gaia and Nature’s Way come up with herb products, will consumers care if there’s a quality seal on their products? These are already trusted brands. If they are the same consumers as dietary supplements consumers, they won’t care—except they like the non-GMO and organic seals.”
AOAC and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia are two other organizations that have published or are developing testing methods for all things cannabis. This is important because there is no shortage of labs that are themselves relative start-ups to serve the hemp and cannabis markets.
“There are no methods,” said Austin Stevenson, business unit manager at testing lab Eurofins Bio Diagnostics. “That’s why you can send material to one lab and find 80 percent, and another lab tests and it’s 70 percent, and you’re selling this stuff based on potency. That’s a big difference –either you have a lot or you overpaid.”
Stevenson said there are five key tests that need to be conducted with hemp.
- Potency testing. The cannabinoid profile is the main purity and potency test. It measures the active cannabinoids in that sample. The two primary cannabinoids of concern are THC—with industrial hemp, these levels need to be below 0.3 percent—and CBD. But there are many more that can be tested for, some of which are seen as becoming potential household letters in their own right in the years to come—CBG, CBG, THCA and more.
- Terpenes. Created by the plant’s trichomes, terpenes provide a unique aroma to the plant.
- Residual solvents. This is “hugely important from a safety and quality perspective,” said Stevenson. Solvents are used when the acid compounds and cannabinoids are extracted from the plant material. But consumers are not interested in ingesting solvents. “When you test for solvents, you’re really testing the quality program of the extractor,” said Stevenson. “You’re making sure the extraction operator has a quality program, using GMPs, to ensure that their protocol and method for extraction is going through GMPs and they know the output is going to be clean. There are operators that don’t have that level of quality in their process and it’s creating contaminated products.”
- Residual pesticides. This test shows how pure or contaminated your hemp is. “There are no limits set by the FDA; the regulations are only on the state level,” said Stevenson. “If you’re selling to all 50 states, it’s important as an operator that the test you select is applicable to where you’re selling it.”
- Heavy metals analysis. Hemp is a bioremediatory—anything the roots touch in the soil will be taken up by the plant. The big four contaminants are arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. A good rule of thumb is to pass California’s Prop. 65. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. (Although, Massachusetts just passed guidelines for heavy metals that are even more stringent than California.)
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3rd party testing companies for cbd oil
Cannabinol (CBN), and Cannabigerol (CBG). Third-party lab tests for CBD are executed by independent labs that are not affiliated with the company selling the product.
These chemical analyses are essential for manufacturers and vendors in the hemp industry to comply with basic regulations: they confirm that the products offered by hemp or CBD companies do not exceed the legal limit of 0.3% Total THC.
Some Third-party labs also go beyond analyzing THC content to test for contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, residual solvents, and microbials. Keep reading to discover more about third-party CBD testing and why it is crucial.
A Closer Look at Third-Party CBD Testing
3rd party testing refers to a scenario where manufacturers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies send samples of their CBD products to independent laboratories for testing. The laboratories help to confirm the product’s chemical characteristics and answer the following questions:
- What exact components or impurities does the CBD products contain?
- Does the CBD product’s packaging accurately reflect the contents of the product?
- Does the CBD product contain harmful components?
- Is the CBD product stable in the retail finished package?
Third-party testing has become very important, especially in the health and supplements industry, where product quality and safety cannot be compromised.
The Importance of CBD Third-Party Testing
Third-party testing is fundamental to the continued growth of the fast unfolding CBD and hemp industry. Here are the primary reasons why you should only sell and/or distribute CBD products that are third-party tested and have a “Best Use By” date given:
- In order for CBD products to meet consumer expectations, they should contain the right quantities of all ingredients. This also includes CBD as well as other cannabinoids or key ingredients such as preservatives.
- Because CBD is extracted from hemp plants, the risk of trace THC content remains. Since the recent federal permission to cultivate industrial hemp in the US, farms may not yet have the experience to determine which plants have produced enough THC to exceed the legal limit. Thus, third-party CBD testing can help to ascertain whether you are stocking CBD products with the appropriate THC levels.
- Today, most CBD products are sourced from mass-produced hemp plants. But their production is sometimes accelerated using agrochemicals such as pesticides and organic chemicals, which could survive the cannabinoid extraction process and therefore be unintentionally present in CBD products. Third-party CBD testing helps to identify these organic components and establish whether they fall within the maximum acceptable safety range.
- Regulatory standards for CBD product manufacturing have not been established to date . High-quality third-party testing can help to eliminate consumer uncertainty regarding safety standards practiced by reputable CBD product manufacturers and retailers in the absence of government-instituted oversight.
- Since 2018, many states within the US and multiple countries have seen an increase in the number of companies participating in the CBD industry. Although this growth provides consumers with the freedom of choice, the lack of regulatory oversight invites the potential for substandard practices that could result in false claims about product contents, safety, and unsubstantiated efficacy.
- The process of manufacturing CBD products is procedurally complex. Third-party testing can help confirm that manufacturing methods are being executed appropriately and used to allow manufacturing to safely release commercial lots to their customers.
Without regulatory standards to prevent companies from selling products with poor safety and quality, third-party lab testing can help CBD companies demonstrate responsible practices independently of federal mandates.
Third-party testing performed before commercial availability can also protect CBD companies from later reputational damage: in the UK, a study was conducted on various CBD oils to compare the products’ actual contents with their packaging and label claims.
According to the laboratory responsible for the testing, the results showed that over two-thirds of the 30 products tested did not contain the advertised amount of CBD. The actual concentrations ranged from 90% of the label claim to, dismayingly, none at all.
Overall, working with a top-rated third-party hemp testing facility remains the best way of ensuring that CBD products are of high quality and ready for market.
What Main Analyses Do Third-Party Labs Perform on CBD Products?
There are five analyses that should be at the tips of everyone’s tongues when choosing tests to be performed by a third-party lab for CBD products: cannabinoid profile or potency assay, heavy metals, pesticides, bio-contaminants, and residual solvents.
This test, also referred to as potency testing, assesses the quantities of cannabinoids in a CBD product sample.
It is the most important test because it helps to prove that a CBD product contains the levels of CBD indicated on the labels. For example, if a seller claims a product is THC-free, the cannabinoid profile will accurately confirm or refute this claim.
The best cannabinoid potency tests include 15 cannabinoids so that you can have a clear picture of what a product contains. Some of them include CBD, THCA, CBC, THCV, CBN, Δ-9 THC, Δ-8 THC, and CBDV.
In addition to cannabinoids, 3rd party lab testing also checks for the presence of residual pesticide residues. Many farms growing hemp plants use pesticides to accelerate growth and reduce damage from insects. Some of the pesticide components could be harmful to human health if ingested. Some of the common pesticide components tested by third-party labs include:
✓ Daminozide : This is a common pesticide used by companies growing cannabis, especially in greenhouses.
✓ Bifenazate : This is another common component in fungicides.
✓ Cyfluthrin : Like bifenazate, cyfluthrin is a common ingredient in many insecticides.
3) Terpene Profiles
Terpenes are aromatic compounds that are common in most plants. They are largely responsible for imparting the unique smell of hemp plants and smokable flower.
Your third-party lab tested CBD will contain terpenes if it is made from full-spectrum and/or broad-spectrum extracts. In most manufacturing processes, terpenes are isolated to give CBD products specific characteristics.
4) Organic Solvents / Residual Solvents
Organic solvents are common compounds used in the extraction process. Some of the solvents used in CBD extraction include propane, ethanol, acetone, and isobutene. Recently, however, solvent extraction is being replaced by more advanced methods such as Supercritical Carbon Dioxide .
Supercritical CO 2 is an alternative extraction process that doesn’t require solvents and can be performed with a co-solvent. Therefore, organic solvent tests help to identify solvents even when CBD may have been performed using a “solvent-free” method.
5) Heavy Metals
Notably, hemp is a good bio-accumulator. While this attribute allows the plant to obtain nutrients from the soil for faster growth, it also creates risk. If the soil contains high levels of elements that are termed “heavy metals,” the plant will also absorb them.
Check your raw material and finished CBD products for heavy metals. The most commonly tested heavy metals include:
✓ Several other metals such as nickel, selenium, and chromium are also routinely tested per USP 232 and USP 233.
6) Bio-Contaminants / Microbiological Impurities
3rd party CBD labs check for contaminants such as fungi, bacteria, and mycotoxins that might have entered the plant material. If products are manufactured from contaminated hemp extracts, the risk of bio-contaminants is very high.
Bio-contaminants can be associated with allergic reactions and harm users. It is paramount that every CBD product you stock is free from these contaminants.
How Does 3rd Party Lab Testing CBD Work?
When looking for a third-party lab testing company, it is important to understand the processes used to test different CBD components.
To ensure you get the right results, go for the best third-party CBD testing firms that use the latest technologies including these:
✓ High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC): This is the standard instrumentation that is used by most third-party CBD lab testing companies out there. During the process, the sample, after suitable sample extraction and clean up, may be dissolved in a solvent. Then, it is injected onto a reversed phase C18 column. Solvent then flows through the column and compounds are separated based on hydrophobicity.
As different compounds exit the column, their quantities are calculated. With this technology, it is possible to tell the presence and exact quantities of each component in a CBD product.
✓ Mass Spectrometry (MS): MS technology is used for identifying heavy metal contaminants, pesticides, cannabinoids, terpenes, residual solvents, and mycotoxins.
✓ Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR Testing): PCR is another effective method used by 3rd party CBD lab testing companies for testing bio-contaminants. PCR quickly analyzes DNA strands present in CBD samples and compares them with DNA code references of bacteria and fungus. If DNA is present in samples, third-party labs can usually also calculate the amount of DNA present – thus determining the extent of contamination.
How To Select Reputable 3rd Party CBD Lab s
As discussed earlier, 3rd party lab testing for CBD and other hemp-based products has not been harmonized by the federal government and is currently regulated by individual States. But you should test to ensure that your products meet expectations and match each label claim.
This could bolster not just business reputation and sales, but the satisfaction of knowing that customers are getting the best. So how do you know the right third-party testing firm to contact?
The primary focus should be identifying a third-party testing lab that has made a name for providing results that are scientifically valid. Work with a lab that is built on transparency, evidence-based practices, and technologies.
As more manufacturers enter the CBD market, it is prudent to be extra careful by working with 3rd party labs . It is the only way to guarantee your clients of the best quality CBD oil or other CBD products!
Your Third-Party Industrial Hemp and CBD Lab
KJ Scientific Independent Testing Labs offers superior hemp and CBD testing services
KJ Scientific Independent Testing Labs, a subsidiary of KJ Scientific, was established to expand our knowledge of environmental toxicology testing to the hemp industry. Our CBD lab follows the strictest standards in the country, delivering accurate, trusted results every time.
We test each sample for:
- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) potency (the psychoactive component of marijuana),
- cannabidiol (CBD) potency,
- residual solvents,
- terpene analysis,
- pesticide analysis,
- and mycotoxins.
After the passage of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 – otherwise known as the Farm Bill – a variety of products containing hemp CBD have been introduced to the market.
To ensure they meet industry standards for what is legally considered “hemp” and are safe for human use, we perform studies on hemp biomass, extracts, and finished or CBD-infused products.
We utilize advanced chromatographic instrumentation and detection techniques to test and analyze each sample to ensure they’re legally compliant and safe for market consumption.
CBD testing is essential to the hemp industry to ensure that THC in hemp plants does not exceed 0.3%, thus becoming a controlled substance. Farmers, extraction processors, and manufacturers of CBD products all need to prove the integrity of their products. Our CBD lab tests many CBD-infused products including personal care products, edibles, and other recreational products. Law enforcement agencies also benefit from testing substances in question in felony cases.
Our experienced personnel and facilities follow stringent protocols in adherence with industry regulators (the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP) and ISO/IEC 17025). When you send your samples for testing to our CBD lab, you will have confidence that we will follow proper procedures and provide you with reliable results demonstrating your company’s compliance with state and federal guidelines.
Reach out to us today and learn more about the hemp and CBD testing services we offer!