New Report Finds 25% Of CBD Products Are Not Tested For Purity
A recent analysis of lab testing data has found that one out of four consumer CBD products is not tested for impurities including pesticides, heavy metals and microbial contamination. The investigation also discovered that the vast majority of CBD consumer goods are not labeled with accurate information detailing the potency of the products.
In a report published last month, online CBD educational resource Leafreport reviewed the lab analysis data for 2,946 cannabidiol (CBD) products from 136 brands to determine how many companies test their products for purity and potency. The investigation also looked for discrepancies between the amount of CBD advertised on product packaging and the actual potency revealed by lab testing. With more and more consumers trying CBD to treat health conditions including anxiety, inflammation and pain, transparency in labeling can help them achieve the results they desire.
An analysis from Leafreport found that only 25% of CBD products are tested for purity.
The study relied on certificate of analysis (COA) reports published on each brand’s website for every product listed. Statisticians took note of the number of products offered by each brand, the percentage of products that have been tested for CBD potency, and the percentage of potency-tested products that tested within an acceptable variance of ± 10% of the labeled amount. The percentage of products that had been tested for purity was also noted, as were the percentages of products that were specifically tested for the presence of pesticides, heavy metals and microbial contamination.
One In Four CBD Products Not Tested For Purity
Leafreport found that 25% of brands did not carry out any purity testing, noting that analyzing for contaminants is more expensive than potency testing. Only 13% of CBD brands carried out purity testing for at least 90% of their products to determine the presence of pesticide residue, heavy metals or microbial contamination. More than a third of brands (35%) published test results for only 10% or less of their offerings.
Dr. Stuart Titus, the former CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc. and now a spokesperson for the family of hemp CBD brands, told Leafreport that all CBD products should be tested for contamination by an independent laboratory. Test results for the company’s brand HempMeds are available online.
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“Third-party lab testing is extremely important for the industry as wholesalers and consumers need to know the exact ingredients that make up a final, finished product that will be delivered to the market,” Titus explained. “The purity of the product – that there are no residual toxins, pesticides, heavy metals or other contaminants – makes for a consumer-safe product. Many children take non-psychoactive forms of cannabis and certainly doctors and parents want to know that the product is lab-tested and assured safe for the child.”
CBD products are used to treat anxiety, inflammation, pain and a host of other medical conditions.
CBD Potency Testing Also Important
The CBD industry as a whole is doing a better job of reporting testing results for the potency of the cannabinoid in their products. Leafreport’s analysis found that only 4% of brands listed test results for 10% or fewer of their products. Still, only 42% of brands test at least 90% of their products for potency and share their third-party lab results with consumers. The review also found that the potency determined by independent lab testing frequently did not match the strength advertised on product labels, with 84% of potency-tested products not testing within 10% of the advertised amount of CBD.
Titus said potency testing can help ensure that accurate information about the product’s cannabinoid concentrations is communicated to consumers.
“Potency testing is important as consumers want to know about the active ingredients – and how much they will be taking per serving,” Titus said. “Often, children with epilepsy will be “dosed” or served according to their body weight and will require a specific amount of product (likely CBD) to control seizure episodes.”
10 Transparent CBD Brands
The analysis from Leafreport also listed the 10 most transparent and accurate CBD brands, based on test results for potency and purity. Stuart Tomc, the senior vice president for business development for CV Sciences, says that his company’s PlusCBD brand made the list because they are tested multiple times.
“At CV Sciences, we do not cut corners. Our PlusCBD products undergo rigorous in-house testing for safety, quality, and consistency throughout the manufacturing process,” Tomc writes in an email. “In addition, all PlusCBD products undergo third-party testing to double verify what is in the bottle matches what is on the label, and we publish certificates of analysis showing results of in-house and third-party testing on our website.”
Transparency and accuracy from CBD brands aren’t only issues for consumer products. A separate analysis by Leafreport found that 56% of pet CBD products had inaccurate label claims.
Accurate determination of cannabinoid concentrations in cannabis and CBD samples is one of the important components of cannabis & CBD testing. ACS determines 22 different cannabinoids and quantifies the level to a specific amount. Our Ultra-High Performance Liquid Chromatographs deliver the highest accuracy that end users can depend on.
MATRIX: Flowers/Plants, Derivative Products and Edibles
ANALYTES: 11 – 22 count
TESTING POTENCY BEYOND THC & CBD
Cannabis potency testing measures the cannabinoids present in your cannabis sample and measures the strength of those compounds. ACS Lab uses an Ultra High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), which is the preferred instrument for testing cannabis edibles and extracts due to its ability to test samples at room temperature without requiring a catalyst to produce a heat reaction. This method can also test for THC Acid (THCA) and CBD Acid (CBDA), which a gas chromatograph would not.
CONSUMERS ARE DEMANDING MORE INSIGHT
When deciding which cannabis strains best suit your consumer’s needs, it’s vital to consider the cannabinoids present in your products as well as their potency. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds secreted by cannabis flowers that mimic the effects of endocannabinoids, which are naturally produced by the human body. Endocannabinoids interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps us maintain homeostasis . Thus, cannabinoids can be a vital part of human health and determine your product’s therapeutic value.
LOOKING FOR BETTER POTENCY TEST RESULTS?
Cannabinoids occur mostly in the plant resin that’s produced by the structures known as trichomes. Trichomes help protect cannabis from insects, animals, fungi, light contaminators and other environmental attackers. The sticky resin is also rich in terpenes , which are responsible for the plant’s smell, taste and therapeutic effects.
To help influence your plant’s cannabinoid profile, the best method is to select a seed whose genes have the potential to produce the potency you desire. For example, if you live in the mountains, you may select a seed that was specially bred for high-altitude growth. But you may also influence how much resin a plant produces through its micronutrients, temperature exposure, humidity levels, harvest methods and water quality.
Heat, for example, can hinder resin formation, so you may want to keep temperatures as low as possible–especially in the late stages of the plant’s bloom cycle. You also want to pay close attention to trichome color throughout the harvest. When trichomes are clear and translucent, they’re not ready for processing yet. But as you notice the trichomes lose opacity and form an amber hue, you know that the plant has reached optimal levels of cannabinoids.
LEGAL & SCIENTIFIC DRIVERS FOR POTENCY TESTING
As laws continue to change in the U.S., the need for standardized and consistent potency testing is necessary to keep consumers safe from unwanted side effects. For hemp, potency testing is required to prove that it contains less than the maximum limit of THC (0.3%).
Potency testing also allows scientists to research how cannabinoids may work differently based on whether they are contained in flower, oils or topicals. This type of research can enhance the ability to market your product to the targeted customer that could benefit from its effects the most.
It’s also important to understand your product’s potency to meet market demand for high THC or CBD levels. You can also utilize potency results to educate your customers with information they need to determine the proper dose for their specific symptoms. When a product’s cannabinoid profile is transparent and documented, customers can work with their dispensary professional to find the best strain for them.
For example, cannabinoids interact with the body’s ECS by connecting to various endocannabinoid receptors that are present in the brain (known as CB-1 receptors) and throughout the body (CB-2 receptors). Depending on which CB receptor the cannabinoid attaches to, the effects on the body can be significantly different, which can be important if you’re considering a cannabis strain that is needed for pain relief, for instance, as opposed to mood regulation. Cannabis plants can produce anywhere between 80-100 different types of cannabinoids that synergize to make up the therapeutic and cognitive effects of the strain. The two most in-demand cannabinoids are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), but other compounds such as cannabinol (CBN) are also starting to emerge. Customers understand these compounds at a basic level and expect to see potency levels that match their desired effects.
POTENCY TESTING WITH ACS LABORATORY
At ACS Laboratory, we currently test flower, edibles and extracts for 22 different cannabinoids, which can alleviate symptoms related to several common conditions: mood and behavior disorders, gastrointestinal and neurological ailments, and pain and sleep-related issues, to name a few. Refer to the FAQ section below that explains more about each cannabinoid as well as the importance of potency testing.
FAQS ABOUT POTENCY TESTING
No. The two primary ways in which cannabis potency is tested is either by Gas Chromatography (GC) or High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). Some companies use GC due to its speed of analysis and simplicity in finding common cannabinoids like THC, CBD or cannabinol (CBN). This method imitates the process of heating the cannabis product, so if the product will be smoked, this method can provide insight on the potency of different cannabinoids in this form.
However, because heat is required in this process, acid forms of cannabinoids like THCA or CBDA cannot be identified. This is where HPLC becomes a favorable way to test cannabis potency because it can identify the acid molecules of major cannabinoids before they will convert to their corresponding compounds through the heat of smoking or baking. HPLC instruments use an ultraviolet wavelength detector to identify the cannabinoids, so it is much more inclusive of various forms of cannabinoids in their free form or acidic state. HPLC is often the preferred choice for potency testing.
Two issues that can affect a hemp plant’s cannabinoid profile are the time of year and the terrain in which it’s planted. Other factors include chemical exposure and environmental stress. That is why you may want to start potency testing during the plant’s vegetative state.
Through vegetative potency tests, laboratories like ACS can analyze plants early in their life cycles to identify the CBD and THC potency. This test helps you avoid the time-consuming process of raising up seedlings to maturity and waiting to test the flower after harvest. It helps enable more rapid development that provides patients and consumers with the quality and safety they expect.
Finally, you’ll want to retest your cannabis post-harvest once your product has been manufactured. This will guarantee that the levels match what you expect.
ACS Lab currently tests for the 16 cannabinoids below, plus 4 new ones ( ᐃ8-THCV, ᐃ10-THCV, EXO-THC, CBT)