It’s the norm for customers to check whether a CBD product has undergone third-party lab testing because this is the only way to determine that the product has no contaminants, and was processed in a GMP-certified facility.
Third-party lab tests are performed by independent labs to ascertain that a product is of good quality, that it contains all the ingredients on the label in the specified quantities, and that it contains no hazardous substances.
As the CBD market expands, diverse products are coming into the market, and customers need to stay watchful.
Basics of CBD Third-Party Lab Tests
The entire CBD industry is not as regulated as it needs to be, and so there’s a loophole that can be exploited by unscrupulous CBD merchants.
From time to time, the FDA will examine the state of CBD products, and the results are not always rosy, and they send warning letters to companies that sell unapproved products.
This is proof that you need to realize that not every CBD product that flashes on your computer screen is fit for consumption, or at the very least, works as advertised.
Third-party lab tests must be performed by laboratories with no affiliation with the CBD company and there are guidelines to eliminate cheating.
The process is typically based on chromatography, where the product is split into separate ingredients, and thus we can tell all the compounds present, and their quantity.
The final report shows what the product was tested for, and the findings, and it also states whether the product is safe for consumption.
Is Third-Party Lab Testing Mandatory?
As we mentioned earlier, the CBD industry is not as tightly regulated as it needs to be, but that is no excuse for CBD companies to risk customers’ lives by putting out potentially dangerous products.
In other words, companies are perfectly okay with spending more money to ascertain that their products are safe, but this effort is greatly rewarded because customers seem to buy only third-party lab-tested products.
If a new CBD company slaps together a product and puts it on the market without the third-party lab tests, there’s a good chance the product will be a flop, but may God help them if FDA gets to their product only to find out it is contaminated.
What Do Third-Party Lab Tests Entail?
When a CBD company sends its product to an independent laboratory, these are some of the things that the product is tested for:
Cannabinoids: they make up most of the cannabis plant, but depending on the extraction or processing methods, the final product might be lacking some of the cannabinoids. The two main cannabinoids are THC and CBD. It’s important to find out their levels in a product. You see, a CBD product is not supposed to have more than 0.3% THC, but if the lab tests confirm that the limit has been surpassed, it gives the company a chance to revise the error and saves them from getting sued by consumers, fined, and having their license withdrawn.
Terpenes: these compounds are not just found in the cannabis plant; they are also present in lemons, oranges, and mango trees and they play a key role in enhancing plant aroma. Many therapeutic effects of cannabis are rooted in terpenes. And they also enhance the absorption of various cannabinoids.
Heavy metals: manufacturers understand that they have to use hemp that is cultivated in “safe” environments. For instance, hemp plants cultivated in polluted soils would absorb these harmful elements e.g. lead and mercury, and lodge these compounds in their stems. But a third-party lab test can help you find out whether a CBD product contains any hazardous metal.
Organic solvents: testing for organic solvents is not common anymore, because most companies are using advanced methods of extracting cannabinoid from industrial hemp, but if solvents were used either during extraction or processing, companies must ensure that there are no residual solvents.
Contaminants: another major thing to test for is contaminants; these can find their way into the product at any stage of product development, and contaminants pose major health risks. Customers mustn’t swallow mold, fungi, bacteria, parasites, or pesticides.
Potency: a CBD product could be small in size but command a big price, whereas another CBD product could be huge and fetch a low price, and it comes down to potency. Some companies are inclined to lie about high potency so they can justify their high prices. Third-party lab tests help confirm the exact potency of the CBD product.
Types of Testing
There are different ways of conducting third-party lab tests, and laboratories use the methods that they are familiar with, or that they have equipment for.
High-performance liquid chromatography: this is the most common (and advanced) way of performing tests. It involves putting samples of CBD products in solvents and then applying pressure to split the product into its constituent elements. These elements have different densities and they exit the tube separately, passing through a UV light, thus allowing both their quantity and chemical nature to be established.
Polymerase chain reactions: it is a relatively fast method of testing for contaminants. It is especially good at spotlighting fungi and bacteria. This test usually appeals to companies with limited budgets or companies that operate in areas with biological contaminants.
Mass spectronomy: it involves ionizing a sample of a CBD product and then passing it through an electromagnetic field.
Why is Third Party Lab Testing Essential?
Top CBD companies use superior methods of extracting and processing CBD, and their products are usually on point, but third-party lab tests establish certainty.
Some of the reasons why CBD companies put their products through third-party lab tests include:
- It’s a huge bargaining chip that attracts more customers
- It protects companies against government harassment during e.g. crackdowns
- It eliminates any potential health risk to customers
- It promotes the growth of the CBD market
- It promotes transparency and adherence to quality standards
What are the Red Flags when Reading a Third Party Lab Report?
- If the brand name is not specified in the lab results it leaves it open for different interpretations
- If the results are documented in a foreign language
- Non-verifiable results
Most customers make a point of checking to see third party lab tests and make sure that you are not the exception to this rule.