Third Party Testing: Why is it Important?
You may have seen some CBD hemp companies promoting their products as being third party tested or telling their customers to check out their third party test results. But, what does third party testing mean and why is it important? Third party testing means that a manufacturer’s products are sent to an independent laboratory (a third party) to confirm its potency and safety. Throughout the blog, I will explain the purpose of third party testing, what third party testing companies test for, as well as provide some advice on what to look out for on a company’s test results.
What is the Purpose of Third Party Testing?
The purpose of third party testing is to provide an unbiased analysis of a company’s finished product. Third party testing is used to indicate the quality, purity and potency of a given sample. Not only do third party test results help companies like Vera Herbals to perfect our product, but it also ensures customers that companies are selling what they are actually promoting. Considering that the hemp industry is still highly unregulated and third party testing is not mandatory for CBD products, companies selling hemp products can potentially lie about the quality or potency of their products. That said, it can be extremely hard to tell whether a company’s product is what they it is.
What do Third Party Testing Companies Test For?
Third party testing facilities can test hemp products for an array of things such as potency (i.e. cannabinoid and terpene profiles), heavy metals, solvents and biological contaminants.
One of the most common tests run by a third party testing facility is the cannabinoid profile. Using specialized and highly technical testing equipment such as high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), the concentration of cannabinoids and phytocannabinoids including CBD, CBDA, THC, CBG and many more can be quantified. This quantification allows companies to make sure that the amount of CBD listed on the bottle is accurate. In addition, the cannabinoid profile ensures that the product does not exceed THC levels set by legal requirements.
Terpenes are the natural compounds that give off the aroma and flavor in cannabis and a variety of other plants. While testing for terpene content is less popular, some companies like to show their customers that their products contain a high terpene profile considering the various benefits that these aromatic molecules have. Since the manufacturing process for CBD isolates destroys terpenes, you will only ever see terpene profile for full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products.
Third party testing companies can test for heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium. The cannabis plant is a bio-accumulator, meaning it has the ability to absorb nutrients from the soil and store it in its stems and leaves. While healthy soil contains a plethora of elements and minerals that are essential for human health and life, soil can also naturally contain heavy metals which are toxic and dangerous to consume in large quantities which can cause inflammation and destruction of cells in the body.
While many hemp companies are turning to solventless extraction methods, such as CO2 and hemp rosin, companies that are using solvents including propane and butane should make sure that they are getting their products tested for these harmful substances.
Biological contaminants such as mold, fungi, parasites and bacteria can also be tested by third party testing facilities. If the contaminated plant material goes through the extraction process the final product will also be contaminated. If consumed, some users may experience allergic reactions such as sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, dizziness, fever and digestive problems.
What to Look for on Third Party Test Results
Before you purchase a CBD product from a company that you have never tried, always check if they upload their third party test results to their website. When looking at their test results, you should keep an eye out for their cannabinoid and terpene profiles as well as their results for heavy metals, organic solvents and biological contaminants.
When referring to the cannabinoid profile, a full-spectrum product should have CBD, THC and some lesser known cannabinoids. If the company states that their product is full-spectrum and you only see one cannabinoid listed on their test result, something is amiss. Test results for companies that sell broad-spectrum products should show all other cannabinoids except for THC. The last category is CBD isolates, which should only contain CBD in their test results. When buying full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD products, test results should show some terpenes, while CBD isolates should contain no terpenes at all.
Another thing to look for on test results is the status of heavy metals. While some heavy metals may most likely be present in the product, that does not necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the product. In small amounts, heavy metals are required for maintaining good health but in larger amounts they can become toxic. The report should determine if the presence of heavy metals is within healthy limits and should give a status on whether the level is acceptable or not.
If a company is using solvents to extract, it is important to note if test results show high solvent residue or not. If you are purchasing a product that claims to be solventless, there should be zero solvents in their test results. Finally, third party testing facilities can perform microbiology screening which establishes if the product is free from biological contaminants. Make sure that test results always show zero biological contaminants.
The moral of the blog is do not buy CBD products from companies who don’t participate in third party testing. Without test results, it is unclear what you may be consuming and, while false advertisement of potency is less serious, the potential presence of heavy metals, solvents and biological contaminants can be consequential. If you do find a company with third party testing but there are significant discrepancies between the manufacturer’s claims and what the test results say, you are probably better off looking for a different product. It’s important to know what you are putting in your body so make sure to do your research and always ask for test results.
Cooke, Justin. “How CBD Third-Party Testing Works & Why It’s Important.” Daily CBD – English, 7 Dec. 2020, dailycbd.com/en/third-party-testing/.
- Blake, Dwight. “CBD Lab Testing: How to Read Lab Test Results on CBD Products.” Lab Manager, 21 Aug. 2020, www.labmanager.com/insights/cbd-lab-testing-how-to-read-lab-test-results-on-cbd-products-23618.