When the Farm Bill was passed in 2018, it legalized the commercial production of hemp at a federal level in the USA. This was great news for those of us excited about spreading the benefits of CBD to a wider audience. Now, in a market that Forbes projects to be worth over $20 billion by 2024, you’re going to find a lot of companies popping up each day with new products. We’re happy to see the rising popularity of CBD products and companies pushing the barrier beyond the popular favorite CBD drops and using CBD in new ways. We honestly believe this expansion and widespread acceptance of CBD in the mainstream will help a lot of folks in our country. But we’re also urging anyone interested in adding CBD to their routine to exercise caution and be very careful about what they’re buying and from where.
Currently, the CBD market is largely unregulated, and this can be a bit scary. But it doesn’t have to be! One way to ensure you’re getting high-quality, safe CBD products is to only purchase from companies that make use of third-party testing and which readily publish their results. At Soul CBD, we’re big believers in quality, transparency and efficacy. This means our CBD isolate is derived from USA-grown, organically farmed hemp plants. Our physician-formulated products contain no THC and are all third-party-lab tested. We openly publish our Certificates of Analysis (COAs), and you can check them out anytime you want.
COAs can be a little difficult to read or understand though. And you may want to know more about why they’re important. In this article, we’re going to cover all of that so you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to vet any CBD company you come across to make sure the product you’re getting is of top quality.
Who Does Third-Party Testing?
CBD companies can pay to have independent laboratories test their products to confirm the chemical characteristics of their CBD products. This ensures the final products are what the company believes them and advertises them to be.
This practice is good for customers and also benefits responsible companies that want to verify quality control in their CBD products. Really, it’s win-win! Generally, independent laboratories that do this testing are trying to answer four important questions:
- What are the exact components of the CBD product and are there any impurities?
- Does the packaging accurately describe the product?
- Is there anything harmful in the CBD product?
- Is the CBD product stable in its final packaging that it will be purchased in?
What Are They Looking For?
When third-party testing happens, there are a lot of things that the labs are looking for. Here’s some info about each of them and why they’re important.
Cannabinoid Profiles & Potency – This will tell you how much CBD is present in the product, by weight, as well as its concentration. What’s important about this analysis is that it will also tell you what other cannabinoids are (or aren’t) present.
At Soul CBD, we’re big believers in the power of CBD isolate. That means pure CBD without any other cannabinoids mixed in. And that includes ensuring our product is THC-free. It’s true though that some folks opt for full-spectrum CBD products that contain some THC. It’s supposed to be 0.3% or less by law, though, without independent third-party analysis, how can you be sure?
Not knowing if your product contains THC or how much it contains can be risky for both health and legal reasons.
Heavy Metal Analysis – No, we’re not talking about rocking out here. Hemp is a good bio-accumulator, meaning it readily collects and absorbs what’s in the soil around it. It’s a great feature and is part of what allows hemp plants to absorb nutrients efficiently and, in turn, speeds up growth, making it a wonderfully renewable and eco-friendly resource.
However, if the soil is contaminated with high levels of heavy metals, the plants will absorb them as well. Heavy metals generally tested for are arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead.
Microbiological Contaminants – This includes bacteria, mold, yeast and fungi that may be accidentally introduced into the final product during the manufacturing process. They are usually introduced early in the process, during the initial harvesting of plants, but can sneak in along the way as well
High amounts of any of these can be quite hazardous, so you’ll want to make sure the COAs you’re looking at give the company a pass in this area. And ones you’ll want to make sure don’t appear at all are E. coli and Salmonella.
Volatile Organic Compounds – These are compounds that have a high vapor pressure and low water solubility, meaning, when present in a liquid or solid, they evaporate easily into the air. They’re the kind of things that make using certain cleaning supplies in enclosed areas dangerous, for example. And, yes, many are quite dangerous for us to be breathing in.
Any kind of topical CBD products should definitely be tested for VOCs because you will be applying them to your body and breathing in anything that is released.
Pesticides – Researchers have called for an urgent need for a new concept in agriculture when it comes to the widespread use of pesticides in farming. Pesticides have been shown to have negative dermatological, gastrointestinal, neurological, carcinogenic, respiratory, reproductive and endocrine effects. They are the last thing you want in your CBD products! And because, as we said, hemp plants are great bio-accumulators, they’re going to happily absorb any pesticides used when they’re grown. Only purchasing products made with CBD derived from organic hemp and verified via pesticide analyses ensures these nasty things stay out of your system.
Different Kinds of Tests
When you’re reading COAs, you’ll probably notice that different tests are being used to analyze the CBD product. In fact, more than one test may be used on the same product to provide various amounts and kinds of data. To help you better understand what you’re looking at, we’re going to go over the various kinds of testing you’ll find on COAs.
LC Testing (Liquid Chromatography) – Also known as Ultra-Performance or High-Performance LC testing, this is a method that separates, identifies and quantifies each component in a mixture. It starts off by dissolving a small sample of the product in a solvent – usually ethanol. After it’s dissolved, it’s put in a long, thin tube where the pressure is increased, separating all the individual compounds in the product by weight.
Eventually, molecules are pushed out of the end of the tube through a tiny hole and tracked by a UV light detector that determines the density of each. This allows the lab to track what compounds are present and how much of each. Notably, CBD, THC and other cannabinoids all have different densities, so that’s how lab technicians can check for and report their presence or absence, as well as concentration.
PCR Testing (Polymerase Chain Reactions) – This kind of testing is very amazing and has been heralded as one of the most important scientific advances in molecular biology. It can be used for DNA fingerprinting and the diagnosis of genetic disorders. Importantly for CBD COAs, PCR testing is also vital in the detection of biological contaminants like bacteria or viruses.
It samples DNA from the product that is being tested and then analyzes and matches it against a variety of known DNA patterns in bacteria, mold, yeast and fungi. It’s both efficient and effective and a very important part of any COAs when it comes to making sure your CBD products are free of microbiological contaminants.
MS Testing (Mass Spectronomy) – Mass spectrometry is a powerful method used to measure known materials and to identify unknown compounds within a sample. It does so by converting a sample into gaseous ions that are then passed through a series of stages in a sealed environment. This analysis tells lab technicians the structure and chemical properties of all the different molecules in a CBD product. It’s used to measure heavy metals, pesticides and even, at times, different cannabinoids in CBD products.
Verifying the Third-Party Tester
You might be a bit skeptical about the labs testing CBD products. And that’s okay! Fortunately, there’s an easy way to verify that the independent laboratory testing those CBD products that you’re looking to buy is doing a proper job.
ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation allows laboratories to show that they operate competently and produce trustworthy results. When you’re looking at COAs, make sure that there’s mention of the tests meeting the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025. When a laboratory adheres to these rules and standards, it can give you, the consumer, confidence on several levels and for many reasons.
First, it means the lab is meeting management requirements related to the operation and effectiveness of systems within the lab itself. For any of us who have worked in literally any kind of company, we know how important quality management is!
Second, it also means the lab meets important technical requirements. This ensures staff working in the lab are competent and professionally trained to be carrying out the tests they are performing, as well as their ability to analyze and report the results accurately. And, of course, that all equipment used in the tests are properly calibrated and maintained.
Why Some Companies Might Not Test
When it comes to shopping around for a good deal, you might find that some CBD products are priced lower than others. But, then, you might also find a real lack of readily available COAs on their website. In fact, they might not be doing any third-party testing at all.
So why is that?
Some companies are going to avoid testing their products because of the cost. While it’s not a super-expensive process, a profit-driven enterprise is going to look to cut costs wherever they can. Unfortunately, in an unregulated industry like the world of CBD, it’s really up to each company to be honest and self-monitor. That’s why if prices look suspiciously low and there are no COAs to be seen, you might want to find a new source for your CBD.
There are also other companies that might be afraid of what they’ll find if they subjected their products to the same level of testing as we do. As we’ve said, we choose American grown, organically farmed hemp plants as the source for our CBD isolate. And we use it in all of our products. Eliminating the use of pesticides in the farming process is huge for us because it means a cleaner, safer product. But, again, for some other companies out there, profit wins out. They opt for cheaply grown hemp that has been sprayed down with many of the pesticides our COAs show aren’t present in our CBD products.
It also might be an oversight or poor web design on the company’s part as well. If you’ve found a CBD product you’re really interested in but can’t find any COAs on the company’s website, just shoot them a message to ask if they’re available. Occasionally, they do get hidden here or there on a website, and any company worth doing business with will happily get back to you quickly and provide you with the link.
Some Final Thoughts
If you’ve looked at all the COAs on a company’s site but you’re still not sure about buying CBD online from them, take a look at their story and see if it is something you connect with. Our story at Soul CBD is one that has helped build a community seven-million-humans strong. And we have profound respect for our customers and their stories because they’re an integral part of who and what Soul CBD is.
So, after you’re done reading our COAs, which we encourage you to do, take some time to get to know us and our collection of CBD products. We’d love for you to join us on this wellness journey.