The purpose of a COA is to know the character of the sample tested – how pure? how clean of contaminants?
The definition of a COA is a formal, written report clearly showing the testing results as defined in the report itself including what specific testing was conducted, the analytical instrumentation employed, and the testing methodology’s Limit of Detection (LOD) and Limit of Quantification (LOQ).
Much confusion exists about COAs in the cannabinoid industry ranging from their accuracy to their consistency when different analytical labs test split samples to their purpose and for that matter, their limitations. Let’s tackle the issues one at a time.
The most common COA is a potency report that presents the panel of cannabinoids to be identified and their percentage. For example, the COA may show that 15 individual cannabinoids were part of the testing panel, and the sample tested was comprised of 99% CBN and 1% unknown material. Based on the LOD and LOQ as described in the COA, a reporting of 1% unknown material would solely mean that the other 14 cannabinoids in the test panel other than CBN were not found in the sample. The concentration levels chosen for a particular sample to be tested is also important and most often when testing minor and rare cannabinoids the analytic testing needs to be done twice at two different concentration levels to present an accurate picture of the % constituents are, particularly the other cannabinoids beside the isolated cannabinoid, in a sample. When testing high purity cannabinoid isolateds, many third-party testing labs do not test at two concentrations unless they are specifically asked to do so and paid accordingly.
Other common COA reports are tests for residual solvents and other contaminants like heavy metals, microbials and mycotoxins.
Accuracy and consistency when comparing reported test results from two different analytical laboratories, or even when comparing trusted in-house analytical lab vs an independent third-party analytical lab is a common complaint in the cannabinoid industry. Although accuracy and consistency is rapidly improving industry-wide, several factors account for frustration by product manufacturers who require confirmation of the integrity of the bulk cannabinoid ingredients they source from suppliers and use in their products. Factors like the relatively immaturity of the cannabinoid testing industry, the fact that standardized methodologies are still being established, inexperience in testing minor and rare cannabinoids by analytical labs most familiar with commodity hemp/CBD ingredients like CBD and CBG and CBD distillate, and even sampling techniques that are not uniform even within a testing lab.
The limitations that is experienced in the analytical testing field can best be addressed with split samples, an understanding that fairly large margins of error still exist industry-wide, COAs can be falsified easily by unscrupulous market participants,
What does a Third-Party Accredited Lab COA mean and does PPM have them for its cannabinoid isolates?
A third-party lab is an independent lab paid to test a sample of material, in this case, a minor or rare cannabinoid isolate, concentrate, extract, oil or distillate. An accredited lab is defined as one that is ISO 17025 certified by an auditing firm and issued a certificate of compliance with the ISO specifications related to analytical lab testing. Most independent labs need to obtain such certification. In-house labs sometimes obtain accreditation but are not required to do so.
PPM obtains COAs from accredited independent (third-party) labs for its isolate products. PPM also have invested heavily in internal analytical testing that often is superior in accuracy, consistency, precision and scope as compared to external labs. PPM tests extensively during processing as part of its quality management system (QMS) to ensure each step of processing remains “in-spec” as well as part of PPM’s final QA/QC process.