Third Party Analysis Explained
The CBD industry is largely self-regulated. When CBD retailers claim their products contain impressive quantities of cannabidiol and are free from contamination, you may have to take them at their word. Or do you? Do you know how third party analysis works?
Needless to say, this is a less than desirable situation. Between 2014 and 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tested 147 samples of products that supposedly contained cannabidiol oil. They discovered that a high percentage of CBD sellers were being untruthful about the levels of CBD their products contained. In a few cases, there were no detectable traces of CBD oil in the product at all.
THC levels were also misrepresented in several instances. Some people who thought they were purchasing THC-free CBD products were actually being dosed with an unwanted psychoactive compound.
This information may make you distrustful of CBD companies. But that judgment would be premature. While there are some bad actors, most well-established CBD manufacturers and retailers are responsible and honest. They truly care about the safety of their customers and the reputation of their businesses.
The most trustworthy CBD retailers contract independent laboratories to test their products. These laboratories provide a comprehensive and unbiased evaluation of the substances they test, creating detailed reports that can then be displayed on the CBD retailer’s website.
How Third Party Analysis Works
CBD sellers contract laboratories staffed by trained chemists with expertise in modern, high-tech testing methodologies. These third party analysts will perform a thorough ingredient check. They will also test for various types of chemical or biological contamination.
Once all the requested tests have been completed, independent laboratories produce detailed test reports for their clients, the CBD retailers. In turn, those retailers will post those results on their website, so their customers can verify the contents of the products they plan to purchase. This is done for every new batch or shipment of products. This ensures that quality control is permanently maintained.
Each new report is called a Certificate of Analysis. These certificates list everything the laboratory’s analysts tested for, revealing the volume of each ingredient and any types of contamination that were found. Since the normal policy of CBD retailers is to throw out any products that test positive for contamination, consumers shouldn’t expect to see any indications of contamination.
These reports will also list the percentage of CBD a product contains, by weight. This percentage can be correlated with the claims of the company selling the product, to see if the numbers match. The reports will also list percentages for any other cannabinoids that a product contains, and if the product is made from broad-spectrum CBD oil products, no THC should be present.
The American Association of Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) offers its official seal of approval to the independent laboratories that test CBD products. This organization is the largest independent laboratory accrediting organization in the United States.
Categories of Third Party Analysis and Testing
Independent, third party laboratories can perform an extensive battery of tests on CBD products. Depending on the orders of their customers, they can test for:
Cannabidiol is the by far the most common cannabinoid found in broad-spectrum CBD products. But it isn’t the only one. There could conceivably be traces of a dozen or more other cannabinoids in a particular sample. Some may exist in quantities that are too small to measure, and some products might only contain a few additional cannabinoids. All are potentially important, however, since they can be beneficial in even small amounts.
The THC level is one of the most important aspects of a cannabinoid profile. In full-spectrum products, THC should comprise no more than .3 percent of the content. In broad-spectrum CBD products, this psychoactive compound should be removed entirely.
Terpenes are compounds found in all types of plants. They are responsible for the odors that plants emit, and help repel predators that might cause damage. They also have a range of therapeutic effects, which vary from terpene to terpene.
Terpene levels in hemp plants are relatively high. Hemp-derived CBD oil will normally contain measurable amounts of several different types of terpenes. These chemicals are welcome because terpenes combine with cannabinoids to amplify each other’s beneficial properties. This interrelationship is referred to as the entourage effect, in recognition of the complex dynamics involved.
Testing procedures can detect 30 or more different types of terpenes in CBD product samples. A few will usually be present, and all will register at levels well under one percent of the total weight.
Processing and extraction procedures for broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD products are designed to preserve existing terpene levels. The terpene profile is different for each hemp strain, but all terpenes offer some benefits.
Third party terpene testing is not universal. Some companies may request it, while others will not. However, if cannabinoid levels are normal, a healthy mixture of terpenes will be present in broad-spectrum products as well.
When quality control is lacking, chemical contamination can be a problem in hemp-derived CBD. Toxic solvents like benzene, acetone, and ethanol can be picked up as environmental pollutants. They may also be used to extract CBD oil from hemp plants, and leave traces in the final product.
Fortunately, most responsible CBD extraction companies have abandoned the use of solvents for extraction. They have adopted non-toxic, high-tech procedures as an alternative.
Nevertheless, it remains normal to test for possible chemical solvent contamination. Depending on their sensitivity, tests may be able to detect two dozen or more potential chemical contaminants. If quantities of any exceed the legal level, the company would be expected to pull their product from the market.
A Certificate of Analysis will normally contain a chart or summary that indicates if any contaminants have been detected at above the allowable levels. This chart will usually be found at the top of the certificate, and will indicate if a product passed or failed various contamination tests.
Hemp plants can sometimes absorb metals like mercury, arsenic, and lead from the soil. Such contamination is rare, but not unheard of and potentially quite dangerous.
These metals are toxic to humans and animals. If they’re detected in anything more than miniscule quantities, the CBD products that contain them should be destroyed. This is required by both federal and state laws.
Each Certificate of Analysis will include data obtained from heavy metal testing. Trustworthy CBD retailers won’t be selling products that fail this type of testing, or any type of contamination testing for that matter.
Some hemp growers use pesticides to kill or drive off destructive pests. This category of chemical includes insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, disinfectants, and antimicrobials. These chemicals could be applied while plants are in the ground, or possibly at some point after they’ve been harvested.
If you aren’t purchasing hemp-derived CBD products that have been certified organic, you should assume that pesticides were used at some point during the hemp’s lifecycle. Even if the CBD was grown organically, it could have been contaminated by pesticide spraying that occurred upwind, on the fields of other farmers. Therefore, third party pesticide testing is always important.
Pesticides comprise the longest list of potential CBD oil contaminants. Good and thorough laboratories may test for as many as 50-60 types of pesticides that are currently in use. Many are considered safe in trace amounts, but unsafe if found in more concentrated quantities.
Bacteria, mold, fungi, and insects can all attack hemp plants and possibly contaminate CBD extracts. This can be a problem for hemp growers who engage in unsanitary practices, or who take no action to prevent infestations.
These types of contaminants can be highly hazardous to CBD product consumers. They could cause diseases or allergic reactions. This is why all third party testing should be measuring the products they test for biological contamination of any type. Certificates of Analysis should include a listing of microbial agents that were tested for, plus indications if they were present.
State and federal laws prohibit the sale of food, beverages, or supplements that contain measurable quantities of biological contaminants. The top CBD retailers will discard any products that test positive for such impurities.
Zen Garden Organics Observes the Highest Testing Standards
Zen Garden Organics takes full responsibility for every product we sell. Our CBD oil tinctures, soft gels, salves, creams, and supplements for humans and animals are always subjected to comprehensive, independent third party testing. We contract laboratories with impeccable reputations, and you can easily access a comprehensive Certificate of Analysis for each product we sell when you shop on our site.
Before you purchase any CBD product from us, we strongly encourage you to check out the Certificate of Analysis. You’ll learn more about the kind of testing we sponsor, and you’ll be reassured to see that all of our products are contaminant-free and contain exactly the ingredients we claim.
By: Nathan Falde