Edited: 06/14/2020

In our previous blog post, Certificates of Analysis: What Tests are commonly Performed on a Hemp Extract CBD Product, we addressed common tests reported on a COA, short for Certificate of Analysis, and why they’re important.

Here, we provide a general overview on how to read a COA for a hemp extract CBD product. First, we outline some common abbreviations and what they generally mean. Following that, is an interactive guide that features a sample COA with numbers displayed by each field to be covered below for the sample batch of a 3500mg Full Spectrum oil tincture.  Hover the displayed number and a pop-up will appear, providing a brief description for the selected field.

Common COA Abbreviations

  • Below Limit of Detection (“B/LOD”). This means the substance or compound tested was present, but the amount detected is below the cut off value detectable by the testing instrument.
  • Below the Limit of Quantitation (“B/LOQ”). This means the substance or compound was detected, but the value is below what can be accurately reported. If you review the LOQ for a substance or compound and see “B/LOQ”, it means the detected amount is below that indicated number.
  • Below Threshold. This means the result for the compound or substance is below the acceptable, legally set number.
  • Limit of Detection (“LOD”). This is the lowest value that the testing instrument is capable of detecting the presence of a substance or compound.
  • Limit of Quantitation (“LOQ”). Generally, for the laboratory to report a result value, the number must be greater than or equal to the LOQ number listed in each row of the test column for each compound tested.
  • Not Detected (“N/D”). This is one of the most common abbreviations on a COA. A result showing N/D means the instrument did not detect the presence of the tested substance or compound. Some products labelled or otherwise indicated to be “THC Free”, “0.00% THC” or “0.00 mg THC” may still contain trace amounts of THC that simply were not detected when tested due to the cut off limit (i.e., the LOD) set on the laboratory’s testing instrument.

Interactive Guide

1. The name of the third-party laboratory that performed the testing. Third-party means the laboratory and seller are entirely independent of each other so that neither can influence the outcome of the test results.
2. The ISO/IEC number specifies the requisite program type that the laboratory underwent to receive an accreditation status. The program provides certain requirements for the competence, impartiality and consistent operation of laboratories. The accreditation number following that is the laboratory’s unique number it was assigned. Florida, and some other states, require a laboratory to be accredited to qualify as an acceptable laboratory for testing hemp extract CBD products. Accreditation ensures the laboratory meets and follows higher quality standards than a licensed, but not accredited, laboratory.
3. This field identifies the product and batch number. The batch number here should match the batch number on your product.
4. The unique QR code displayed on the product’s label or affixed on the product itself retrieves the product’s COA or directs you to a repository hosting the COA. Florida, and some other states, require a QR code. Simply scan the code using your phone’s camera to locate the COA. If the camera doesn’t work, use a QR code reader app instead.
5. This is the image of the product sample tested. The displayed product will be a smaller sized sample bearing a general label with product information (like the one shown), or a finalized retailer product bearing the retailer’s branded label.
6. This field summarizes the cannabinoid results and includes the amount of common cannabinoids. Namely, THC, CBD and total cannabinoids in the product. For the total amount of THC detected in your product, look at D9-THC. Here, the total amount of D9-THC detected is 0.016%.
7. This is the general profile name of what was tested; in this case, Cannabinoids.
8. Each specific cannabinoid tested is listed here.
9. The LOQ column identifies the laboratory’s set result value. Basically, for the laboratory to report a result value, the detected amount must be greater than or equal to the LOQ number listed in each row for each cannabinoid tested.
10. This shows the detected number of milligrams per unit for each cannabinoid tested and may be used to verify whether the product is Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum or an Isolate.
11. This is the general profile name of what was tested; in this case, Terpenes. Along with profile name, a total percentage of all the terpenes detected may be provided. Here, the total amount of terpenes detected is 0.018%.
12. Each specific terpene tested is listed here.
13. This shows the detected percentage of each terpene tested.
14. The LOQ column identifies the laboratory’s set result value. Basically, for the laboratory to report a result value, the number must be greater than or equal to the LOQ number listed in each row for each terpene tested.
15. This lists the general profile name of what was tested; in this case, Pesticides.
16. Each specific pesticide tested is listed here.
16. Each specific pesticide tested is listed here.
17. The Action Level column lists the recommended level of each pesticide not to be exceeded.
17. The Action Level column lists the recommended level of each pesticide not to be exceeded.
18. The Results column indicates whether the tested pesticide was or was not detected. Results should be reported as N/D (not or none detected), or an amount that is below the Action Level number listed in the Action Level column.
18. The Results column indicates whether the tested pesticide was or was not detected. Results should be reported as N/D (not or none detected), or an amount that is below the Action Level number listed in the Action Level column.
19. The LOQ column lists the laboratory’s set result value. Basically, for the laboratory to report a result value, the detected number must be greater than or equal to the LOQ number listed in each row of this column for each pesticide tested.
19. The LOQ column lists the laboratory’s set result value. Basically, for the laboratory to report a result value, the detected number must be greater than or equal to the LOQ number listed in each row of this column for each pesticide tested.
20. This identifies the general profile name of what was tested; in this case, Residual Solvents.
21. Each specific residual solvent tested is listed here.
22. The Action Level column lists the recommended level of each residual solvent not to be exceeded.
23. The Results column indicates whether the tested residual solvent was or was not detected. Results should be reported as N/D (not or none detected), or an amount that is equal to or below the Action Level number listed in the Action Level column to be safe.
24. The LOQ column lists the set result value for each residual solvent tested. Basically, for the laboratory to report a result value, the detected amount must be greater than or equal to the LOQ number listed in each row of this column for each residual solvent tested.
25. This is the general profile name of what was tested; in this case, Microbes.
26. Each specific microbe tested is listed here.
27. The limit of detection (LOD) shows the lowest value set for detecting each microbe.
28. This is the recommended level of each microbe not to be exceeded.
29. This shows the amount of each microbe detected, if any. Results should be reported as either N/D, Below LOD, or Below Threshold, for each microbe to be safe.
30. This the final reported result for each microbe detected, using a simplified Pass or Fail outcome. Results should be reported as PASS for each microbe to be safe.
31. This is a “Report Key” and provides additional information that may not fit into a results table, such as the meaning of an abbreviation, what testing method was used, additional analytes included in a test, and, how a result was calculated.
32. This is the general profile name of what was tested; in this case, Heavy Metals.
33. Each heavy metal tested is listed here.
34. This is the recommended level of each heavy metal not to be exceeded.
35. This shows the detected amount of each heavy metal detected. Results should be reported as N/D or B/LOQ (below limit of quantitation) for each heavy metal to be safe.
36. This indicates the lower value that is set on the testing instrument for detection purposes. Basically, for the laboratory to report a result value, the amount detected must be greater than or equal to the lower value indicated, here 75 ppb, for each heavy metal tested.

Summing It Up

You should always have access to the COA for a CBD product to verify its content and safety for use. Unfortunately, certain brands have claimed their products contained a certain amount of CBD when, in reality, less or no CBD is present.  The COA is a resourceful tool available to you in this regard.

If your phone’s camera is unable to scan the QR code, try using a QR code reader app instead. Not all phone cameras function the same and QR code reader apps are generally more successful. If neither of these options work, notify the brand to determine if there is a technical issue, as those do sometimes occur.

If you ultimately can’t get access to the COA where state law requires that one be provided (like Florida does), consider shopping from another brand.  If you live in a state that doesn’t require a COA, then buyer beware.

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