What Is Third-Party Lab Testing and Why Should I Care?Aamna Wasim
Nowadays, CBD products are popping up everywhere, and there is a bewildering array of options to choose from. It can be a confusing experience for many when buying a CBD product. What is the best brand? How can you be sure that the CBD product is safe for consumption? These questions are all valid, and it is absolutely essential for you to understand what constitutes high quality and safe CBD products. This is where checking for third-party lab testing comes in. Through this, you, the consumer, can assess whether the product you’re buying is tested for purity, heavy metals, and contaminants. Let’s take a detailed look at what third-party lab testing is, its importance and how to read the results like a pro.
Third-Party Lab Testing: What Is It?
Third-party lab testing refers to the scenario where CBD product manufacturers send a sample of their products to independent laboratories for analysis. These laboratories are not affiliated with the product manufacturer and hence provide an unbiased assessment.
The third-party labs help to confirm the products’ various chemical characteristics. While it is not a mandatory requirement, testing is still a critical part of ensuring that customers fully understand the contents of the products. Moreover, these chemical analyses and detailed reports are also important for both manufacturers and vendors in the industry to comply with basic CBD rules and regulations. For instance, these labs can confirm whether the THC content is less than 1 mg per CBD product or not as per UK law.
Some third-party labs also go beyond analysing just the THC content to test for pesticides, residual solvents, heavy metals and microbes. In short, they try to address the following questions:
- Does the CBD product contain any harmful ingredients?
- What exact components and impurities does the product contain?
- Does the product’s packaging and labelling align with regulations and accurately reflect the product’s contents?
- Is the product stable in the retail finished package?
In the health and supplements industry, where product safety and quality cannot be compromised, the practice of third-party lab testing is on the rise. Legitimate CBD manufacturers don’t skip this important step, as this ensures full transparency. This also helps in the development of a trustworthy brand name, one that is sought out by savvy consumers. This is the key to success in the CBD industry.
Third-Party Lab Tests- What Do They Test For and What to Keep an Eye On?
Before CBD products hit the market, there are six primary analyses conducted in third-party lab tests. These are the ones you should be mindful of when reading the third party lab reports, also known as Certificate of Analysis of a CBD product:
This test is to assess the quantities of cannabinoids present in the CBD product sample. It is also referred to as potency testing and is one of the most important tests conducted using specialised techniques such as high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The concentration of all cannabinoids such as CBD, THC, CBD, CBN and CBC, among others, can be quantified. This helps to confirm whether the amount of CBD listed on the product is accurate.
The cannabinoid profiles are also vital to verify whether the THC content in the product is the same level as advertised. For example, If a CBD product manufacturer claims their product is THC- free, this test can confirm or refute their claim. If the THC levels are too high, they can prove dangerous since the buyer does not expect to get high from the product.
2. Terpene Profiles
Terpenes are small, aromatic compounds that are commonly found in most plants. They are responsible for imparting the characteristic smell of smokable CBD flower and hemp plants.
Only companies selling CBD products made from full-spectrum or broad-spectrum extracts will get the terpene content tested by third-party labs. This is not the case for CBD isolates, as terpenes are removed during the manufacturing process.
Third-party lab testing also checks for the presence of residual pesticides in the CBD product sample. Pesticides are commonly used in many hemp farms to accelerate plant growth and reduce insect damage. However, large quantities of these can prove harmful to health if ingested. Some of the common pesticide components that are tested include:
The amount of these pesticides in the sample should be minimal. If it is not, it raises a huge red flag.
4. Organic Solvents
These are compounds used in the CBD extraction process. Some of the solvents used include ethanol, propane, isobutene and acetone. These can be potentially carcinogenic and have other dangerous side effects if present in high quantities in the product sample.
However, nowadays, most CBD manufacturers no longer use solvents for the extraction process. Instead, advanced methods such as Supercritical CO2 are in use. This is much safer than solvent-based extractions, as it doesn’t require the use of any toxic substances to achieve an efficient extraction.
Nevertheless, third party labs do test for the presence of organic solvents to ascertain the products are free from these harmful substances.
5. Heavy Metals
Sometimes, CBD products can contain certain amounts of heavy metals, such as lead and mercury. These are injurious to health, especially if consumed in high amounts.
If these heavy metals are present in the soil in which hemp plants grow, they can make their way into CBD products via absorption through the roots. Thorough lab testing can account for the presence and levels of heavy metals in CBD products. Typically, the most tested heavy metals include:
- Other metals like nickel, chromium, and selenium
6. Microbiological Contaminants and Impurities
Fungus, mould and mildew are microbes that are commonly found throughout the cultivation process of hemp when in the presence of water. These contaminants must be removed from the CBD product before they can be sold to the public, as they are associated with allergic reactions and pose other health hazards. Third-party CBD labs check whether or not any harmful microbial contaminants exist. Each CBD product manufactured and sold must be free from these contaminants.
Important Lab Terms to Remember
The following are some important lab terms that will help you read the third-party lab report results:
- Conc.: This is the exact concentration of a substance in the total product.
- PPM: This stands for Parts Per Million and is used to describe the concentration of something. PPM shows the value when the particle size in question is really small.
- ND: This stands for Non-Detectable.
- Certificate ID: this is a phrase or number used to distinguish the lab report.
- Full-Spectrum: A hemp extract containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) up to the legal limit of 0.2%.
- Broad-Spectrum: ATHC-free extract, or one that contains Non-Detectable levels of THC.
- Isolate: Synthetic powder that is cut down to 99% purity.
Importance of Third-Party Lab Testing
The CBD industry has been highly unregulated across the world and in the UK too. This has given some unethical CBD manufacturers to artificially inflate or lie about the CBD content in their products. Some CBD brands are even selling products that may have been contaminated with harmful ingredients. This is where the crucial importance of third-party lab testing comes in.
Third-party lab testing provides an unbiased and objective analysis of the product and what is contained inside it. High-quality testing can ensure that the CBD product is free from any harmful contaminants that can prove injurious to health, meet all legal regulations and are safe for customers to consume. Therefore, a Certificate of Analysis ( CoA), the result of third-party lab testing is highly important. This document is proof that the batch of products has been tested by an accredited laboratory.
Even if a company performs internal tests on its products, skipping third-party testing can be incredibly risky. If some aspect of the product turns out to be unsafe upon release to the public due to lack of third-party testing, it could injure consumers health and make them seriously ill. To avoid a public health disaster and demonstrate product safety, CBD producers should have their products tested.
Third-party lab testing is also a mark of the manufacturer’s corporate integrity. As we discussed before, while third-party lab testing is not mandatory, a lack of it makes you wonder what the company is hiding. Consumers have a full right to all accurate information about a product. For instance, if you purchase a 500 mg CBD oil, you will naturally expect to have 500 mg of CBD in it. Sadly, this is not the case, as has been shown by many independent studies on products that have not undergone third-party testing. CBD products are frequently mislabelled about their cannabinoid content, and many companies are selling oils with hardly any CBD and falsely advertising them as ‘high potency’. There have also been instances where the oils and other products are contaminated with harmful microbes, pesticides, and heavy metals that we discussed above.
Reasons Why You Should Only Purchase From Companies That Get Third-Party Lab-Testing Done
Transparency is key regarding product composition and ingredients, for consumers to manage their CBD intake and ingest safe products. Although CBD products are sold as health and wellness supplements, many people increasingly take them in hopes of relieving various symptoms such as minor aches ad pains and nausea. CBD products are easily available over the counter and this raises health concerns for any substandard CBD products sold. Patients might not receive the CBD dose they were intending to take, leading them to doubt the CBD’s efficacy. Such negative experiences on a large scale can ultimately lead to a reduced public perception of different CBD products’ usefulness and efficacy.
Therefore, you must purchase a CBD product from a reputable supplier or brand that has a proper Certificate of Analysis. You will have considerable peace of mind that the CBD product you are consuming has been independently tested for quality, purity, and potency.
Third-party lab reports provide unbiased results of CBD products for transparency. These labs are independent and not affiliated with the company whose products they are testing. With these independent tests, the CBD company can’t alter in house results or publish inaccurate information. Customers can check for important cannabinoid profiles in the Certificate of Analysis and satisfy themselves that the information on the label is accurate and that they are purchasing products that don’t contain any harmful compounds.