What is a CBD Certificate of Analysis (COA)?

When it comes to CBD products, the current climate of limited federal regulation is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it’s great that the government hasn’t come in and imposed a lot of restrictions on what kind of CBD products can and can’t be sold. As long as you’re buying products with Zero THC — and New Coastal products certainly fall into this category — then you know you’re enjoying products that make use of the best qualities of cannabidiol, without the psychotropic effects of THC.

In the current climate, you can browse and buy the best CBD products for internal and topical use — including CBD tinctures, CBD softgels, CBD gummies and more. You can shop for yourself, your family and your dog, with no prescription required. Talk about modern marvels!

But it’s not all good news. As the CBD industry grows and evolves, less scrupulous companies are jumping on the bandwagon, marketing CBD products under dubious or outright false claims.

Meteoric Rise of CBD Industry Causes Confusion, Mislabeling and False Claims

The CBD business is growing exponentially each day, as more and more people find relief from this miracle product. It’s easy to see why everyone’s getting into the CBD business — everyone wants a piece of the green gold rush.

As the saying goes, though — haste makes waste. Unsuspecting customers might not know how to recognize the markers of top-quality, safe CBD. Shady businesses may simply copy the claims of their competitors or invent them out of thin air.

That’s where 3rd party testing comes in. In the absence of rigorous government standards and regulations for the CBD industry, 3rd party companies can provide unbiased assessments of the ingredients and potency of CBD products.

Again, thanks to the lack of government regulations at the moment — CBD companies are not obligated to conduct 3rd party testing. When a company chooses to submit its products to a 3rd party laboratory for verification at its own expense and inconvenience — you can feel highly confident that the company is committed to transparency and excellence in its offerings.

Needless to say, this isn’t the norm — most companies don’t bother with this step, and in fact, numerous journalists have randomly tested CBD products to see how they stack up to label claims. Disturbingly, many of these white hats have uncovered troubling differences between what the CBD products claim they contain and what their actual ingredients are.

For instance, a Milwaukee-based news team analyzed 20 different CBD items from a variety of Milwaukee and Waukesha County shops.[1] The items included popcorn, gummies and oils. Those CBD products were then submitted to Nascient, an independent cannabis testing lab licensed in California, and Wisconsin Hemp Scientific, a lab in Waukesha County.

Interestingly, the results from both testing facilities matched up. Of the 20 products tested:

  • 2 products had more CBD than advertised (10% of sample size)
  • 16 products didn’t have the amount of CBD that was claimed on the label (80% of the sample size)
  • Only 4 of the tested products had between 75-100% of the CBD quantity claimed on the package (20% of the sample size)
  • And, perhaps most alarmingly — of the products that had less than the CBD amount claimed on the label:
    • 1 product had only half of CBD quantity claimed on the label
    • 8 products had less than a quarter of the CBD it promised
    • 4 products didn’t contain any CBD at all

False Advertising on CBD Product Labels Can Lead to Misdosage

These vast inconsistencies can cause particular problems where dosage is concerned. Further, there’s a concern about toxicity and impurities. Simply put: When you find out that the CBD product you’re using isn’t what it says it is on the label, what does that mean about the safety and hygiene of the product as a whole?

New Coastal believes firmly that transparency and accountability are critical. We test all our CBD products through an independent 3rd party laboratory. The results of these tests are summarized in a Certificate of Analysis (COA). This article will cover what a COA is, what it tells you and how you can read it to know exactly what you’re getting.

How to Read a Certificate of Analysis: This is Exactly What Your CBD Products COA Tells You

These are the standard pieces of information that a COA tells you about a given CBD product:

  • Potency & Other Cannabinoids
  • Terpene profile
  • Residual Pesticides
  • Residual Solvents
  • Microbials / Microtoxins / Heavy Metals

Let’s discuss what each of these things mean, and then we’ll show some examples from some of New Coastal’s own products.

Potency & Other Cannabinoids

Let’s take a look at an excerpt from the COA for our Relief 1500mg tincture. You’ll find this section, on product potency, at the top of the report.

Arguably, this is the most important section of your COA. This section lists out the 10 most common cannabinoids in cannabis. They are: THCa, Δ9-THC, Δ8-THC, THCV, CBDa, CBD, CBDV, CBN, CBGa, CBG, CBC. Don’t get too bogged down in the details and the letters — what you’re most concerned about is CBD and Δ9THC. The Δ9THC level is what we’re talking about when we say “Zero THC” — legally (according to state and federal laws), a product must have a Δ9THC level that is 0.3% or less. Don’t be alarmed if the coimbined values of THCV, Δ8-THC and THCa exceed that limit — these versions of the THC cannabinoid are not active, and therefore have no psychotropic effects.

As far as CBD, you’re looking for the volume to meet or exceed what the label claims.

Terpene Profile

You’ve likely heard of terpenes. In the words of Leafly, terpenes are “aromatic oils that are secreted in the same glands that produce cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Terpenes are color cannabis varieties with distinctive flavors like citrus, berry, mint, and pine. Terpenes play a key role in differentiating the effects of various cannabis strains.”[2]

Here’s the section on terpenes, from the same COA as above:

Why does it matter how many terpenes, and of what variety, you can find in our products? Simple: Terpenes offer additional therapeutic benefits, pleasant flavors and distinct aromatic bouquets in CBD your products. (Translation: Terpenes help determine how your CBD product will smell, taste and work.)

Generally, terpenes are considered desirable — seeing that your product contains them is a good thing. But if your product doesn’t contain terpenes, that’s not a bad thing.

Fun fact — α-limonene imparts a lemony smell, and α-pinene gives CBD products a pine needle scent. At the bottom of the terpene section, you may find a “Primary Aromas” note — this gives you some insight into how the presence of terpenes affects the final flavor and scent of your CBD product.

Contaminant Analysis

It’s important that your CBD product contains the amount of CBD that its label claims, and that the level of THC does not exceed 0.3%. As we’ve discussed, the COA also gives a breakdown of the terpene profile in your CBD product.

In addition to a description of the “good things” in your CBD product, the COA can also clue you in to any potential bad things.

Pesticides, heavy metals, solvents and microbials — yuck! Those aren’t the kind of things that you’re looking for when you set out to buy CBD products. That’s why New Coastal is committed to testing for harmful pathogens, contaminants and microorganisms like arsenic, lead, mercury, salmonella and more. Coastal works hard to source its hemp, and we keep strict quality controls over each of our production and packaging processes. But some steps of the complicated process of making CBD products take place in different locations, and we want to be absolutely certain that no contaminants are entering your product directly or indirectly during any stage.

Here’s what the contaminant analysis section of our COA looks like for our Relief 1500mg tincture product.

Testing Details

Finally, any good COA includes details related to the testing procedures that each product has undergone. This section includes loads of important information — including:

  • The date of testing
  • The type of tests used
  • What different acronyms used in the report mean
  • Contact information and specific point person for the tests conducted
  • Information about the sample or strain submitted for testing

For your extra comfort and security, we chose a laboratory — Earthlabs — that publishes the results of each of its CBD product tests to ConfidentCannabis.com. Though this article offers screenshots of our actual COAs, you can find the full test results on our site, as well as on Confident Cannabis. We cannot manipulate or edit these records, and we cannot have them redacted or falsified.

One More Thing: Watch Out for What’s NOT Tested, Too

Now that you know how to read a COA, you may be surprised when you look at other companies besides New Coastal CBD — their COA may be a lot less robust.

Most retailers that test are only testing for potency — not necessarily offering an analysis of any other relevant facts about the CBD product. At New Coastal, we don’t think that’s enough — for our tinctures and softgels (ingestibles), we conduct full panel testing, and you can find those results on the corresponding COAs.

Conclusion: Always Look for a COA

You wouldn’t buy a used car without having a mechanic or trusted individual confirm its condition. You wouldn’t consume a homemade food item unless you knew and trusted where it came from.

When you look for CBD products, it’s important to be just as picky about sources and testing. At New Coastal, we make our COAs available because we care about transparency, and we always use independent, 3rd party testing to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the results.

When it comes to your health, don’t take chances.

[1] https://www.cbs58.com/news/cbd-test-shocking-results

[2] https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/terpenes-the-flavors-of-cannabis-aromatherapy

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