COAs and Third-Party Tests Are B.S.
There are many “industry experts” reporting that a Certificate of Analysis (COA) will tell you if a CBD product is accurate and reliable. A COA is a third-party lab test that manufacturers display to “prove” that their products have the cannabinoids claimed on their label. We tested 65 products and found that COAs provided by the manufacturer are not reliable.
Nine of the products that we tested were over 30% inaccurate. Of those nine misleading products, seven products came with a COA or third-party lab test. Hemp Bombs, Nature’s Script, Healthworx, Kat’s Naturals, Rosebud CBD, Made by Hemp, and CBDistillery provided COAs and had misleading labels. For example, our lab results found 69.13% fewer mg of CBD than claimed by the third-party test that Hemp Bombs provided.
We conclude that COAs provided by a manufacturer do not prove that a product has accurate CBD or cannabinoid levels. In fact, CBD companies that have misleading labels are just as likely to provide a COA as the companies that are incredibly accurate and honest.
Lab Certified “THC-free” CBD Products That Come with THC
Customers rely on CBD companies to be truthful about THC levels for their employment, health, and safety as well as many legal reasons.
Five of the “THC-free” products that we tested contained THC. Three out of the five products (Elixinol, Sol CBD, and Joy Organics) that tested positive for THC came with a Certificate of Analysis from the manufacturer that promised 0% THC. We conclude that a Certificate of Analysis provided by the manufacturer does not guarantee a product is THC free.
Mission Farms claims on its box that the product contains “no psychoactive THC” and its website claims there are “no-side effects.” However, we found the bottle contained a whopping 48 mg of THC. Interestingly, its COA claimed that the product has THC, even though the box and the marketing material suggest otherwise.
Why Are COAs Fake?
There are several reasons that a COA could show different levels of cannabinoids than the particular bottle of CBD that you purchased. The first thing you should know is that anyone can send a quality CBD product to a third-party laboratory for testing. You could then post the COA of the high-quality product on your website and sell something completely different.
Many of the COAs we came across showed different products, unlabeled products, CBD isolate, or potent extracts that had not been mixed into a final solution. You could easily take a product from a reliable manufacturer, pour it into a different branded bottle, and send it to a lab. Fraud happens, but there are numerous reasons why honest CBD companies provide invalid lab tests.
Call up any cannabinoid testing facility and ask if all labs are the same. Are they all accurate? You’ll get a laugh. It’s accepted in the industry that testing is a giant mess and many facilities are unregulated and inaccurate. A study published in the journal Nature concluded that a staggering percentage of the third-party testing facilities in the state of Washington provided unreliable testing results. An honest CBD company that tests its products with an unreliable lab is doomed from the get-go.
Labs provide a service and CBD manufacturers are their customers. Do you trust all labs to offer damaging information about their clients? Do you believe all manufacturers provide multiple samples that are identical to the bottles they will sell? Of course not—that’s why you are here.
We, at CBD Examine, chose an ISO17025 accredited lab in California that is reputable and follows strict rules under the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC). We pay the lab directly, which makes them genuinely independent from the companies we test.
CBD Consistency is Difficult
Proper cannabinoid testing is difficult. Some of the best CBD companies that we tested had products that were close to accurate and other products that were 10-20% off. Companies are using hundreds of hemp plants, with fluctuating nutrient levels, to produce hemp extracts. A full-spectrum hemp extract is a plant extract and not an isolated chemical created in a lab. Fresh orange juice will have fluctuating nutrient levels the same way hemp extracts will have varying cannabinoid levels.
Good hemp companies spend tens of thousands of dollars every month, testing their products to make sure they have accurate and consistent hemp extracts. Their goal is to make a homogeneous product, where every little bottle filled from a giant vat of hemp extract has the same cannabinoid levels. Creating a consistent product is difficult. According to a cannabis lab technician I spoke to in California, great companies will get within 10% accuracy, while they are required by the California BCC to stay within 30% accuracy. The lab will test several bottles from a batch of 100 bottles to ensure that they are within 30% accuracy.
CBD from hemp, however, is unregulated. Some companies produce batches of hemp extract that fill thousands of bottles and they are not required to test multiple samples. Our lab, for example, requires at least 8 samples for every 1000 products developed. Multiple tests ensure that every bottle will be similar. A product that is not homogeneous (consistent) could have some bottles that come off the production line with too many cannabinoids and others that have very few cannabinoids. The risk consumers suffer is that a product could come with a Certificate of Analysis (COA or lab test) from a CBD company that has very different cannabinoids levels than the bottle in your hand. Every bottle could be different. Plus, the company could frequently change crops, testing processes, and manufacturing processes. Our goal is to improve our testing methods by testing multiple samples from the same company. However, the inconsistency and change in manufacturing processes is an admitted limitation to CBD Examine or any other consumer advocacy group.