A certificate of analysis (COA) is a document from an accredited laboratory that shows the chemical make-up of a product. A COA for a CBD product should display the precise quantities of the various cannabinoids in the product and test for potentially harmful contaminants.
COAs also denote quality. A CBD company that provides an accredited third-party COA with every product is typically trustworthy. Here’s a quick guide to COAs, why they are so important, and what to look out for when you encounter one.
Why are COAs Necessary?
A study in 2017 found that about 70% of online CBD products are mislabeled, meaning they could have a lower or higher cannabinoid content than the manufacturer claims. This poses an issue for anyone seeking a precise serving of cannabinoids to meet their wellness needs. You may, for example, order a CBD product online that claims to have 100 mg of CBD but has significantly less, leaving you without a verifiable, and therefore reliable wellness resource. You may also encounter a product in the market that hasn’t been properly tested for harmful contaminants such as fungus and heavy metals. This poses an issue for anyone seeking a precise serving size of cannabinoids to meet their wellness needs.
The bottom line: one should never assume that the contents advertised reflect a given CBD product's reality. This is a novel and largely unregulated industry, which means it’s unfortunately easy for bad-faith manufacturers to fabricate or mislead a potential customer. Likewise, it can be difficult for consumers to know exactly what they are paying for. A COA offers transparency for the consumer and credibility for the company.
What’s in a COA?
The structure of every COA is similar with minor deviations. The first section of a COA typically includes the product’s sample and batch IDs, information about both the product manufacturer and the third-party lab providing the analysis, and a QR code to verify the COA's authenticity.
The next section displays the product’s full cannabinoid profile, which should closely match the product label. The final sections typically test for potential contaminants. The heavy metal analysis tests for various metals and states whether they were detected in the product. The same process is repeated for different types of contaminants, which are usually residual solvents and pesticides.
Some COAs have a terpene profile that shows which terpenes were detected by percentage weight. Terpenes are beneficial aromatic molecules that give hemp and other plants their unique flavors and aromas.
Where to Find a COA
Many CBD companies display QR codes on their product packaging and labels to scan via a smartphone to view the full COA report. Other companies publish COAs online on their website, typically under the individual product description or on a section of their website dedicated to Certificates of Analysis. If the COA is not clearly from one of these sources, consumers should consider contacting the company to request a COA before purchasing their products. If the company does not have a COA for the product, it's safest to ere on the side of caution and refrain from purchasing CBD from that company.
What to Look Out For in a COA
Accredited third-party laboratories are trustworthy data sources, so it’s important to make sure a CBD product’s label matches the readings of a COA. Here are some of the most common elements of a COA where discrepancies should be taken seriously:
By federal law, hemp products cannot contain above 0.3% THC. If a product that claims to be hemp-derived contains more THC than the legal amount, it may be considered marijuana and therefore illegal in many states. Though trace amounts of THC are highly unlikely to elicit an intoxicating effect, there is no guarantee that noticeable THC-related effects won’t occur if the product tests over the 0.3% legal requirement.
Some low-quality CBD companies advertise more CBD in a product that is actually in the product.
It might also be possible that less CBD exists in the product than is advertised, which is why a COA is an important tool for verification.
Broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD products contain a variety of cannabinoids. The COA should reflect small amounts of other cannabinoids besides CBD such as CBG, CBN, etc.
A COA should also ensure that a product is sufficiently free of heavy metals, pesticides, residual solvents, and other harmful contaminants. If the COA depicts the product failing any of these tests and containing impactful amounts of these contaminants, the product should not be consumed orally or applied topically.
Accredited Third-Party Testing
Just as you’d want a used car to be properly vetted before you buy it, you also want a product with a COA that comes from an accredited third-party laboratory and not from the manufacturer itself.
MyRemede is determined to promote wellness by making sure that every CBD product has a valid and accessible COA. Our Certificate of Analysis page provides a COA for every product, organized in alphabetical order by product type. Each COA includes a cover sheet with a full analysis report of the product from an accredited third-party laboratory.