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What is a COA? (Certificate of Analysis)

You may have seen on the Nordic Oil website that many of our products have a CoA, but what does this actually mean? Read on as we deep dive into Certificates of Analysis. 

A Certificate of Analysis (COA) is a certified document issued by a laboratory after testing the content and quantities of cannabinoids, terpenes, solvents, or volatile compounds in a cannabis product. The details provided in the report have to match the specifications on the product’s label.

As a consumer, why is this certificate relevant to you, and how can you make sense of it? 

We’re aware that the cannabis market remains largely unregulated, and there are plenty of brands offering CBD-based products, so it can be challenging to differentiate between the fraudsters and the real deal. It’s therefore important to stay informed about how to choose the right brand and guarantee high-quality CBD products. One of the easiest and effective ways to do this is by looking at the certificates of analysis.

What is a Certificate of Analysis?

As mentioned above, in a continuously evolving CBD market, consumers often find it confusing to navigate and spot genuinely quality products. 

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Legitimate manufacturers keep up with the federal regulations as well as quality, and safety standards to sell highly regulated products to consumers. A crucial step in this process is partnering with third party laboratories that review and test cannabis products, and issue their results in a report called the Certificate of Analysis.

Therefore, a certificate of analysis is a certified document issued by an accredited laboratory that verifies and confirms if a regulated product meets its predetermined release requirements .  

In the United States, although COA’s are voluntary, the USDA  (United States Department of Agriculture) along with state guidelines mandate testing for all products. Hence a certificate of analysis is an essential piece of information for consumers that verifies that a product is free from heavy metals, pesticides, and other contaminants. 

In short, these certificates of analysis act as a safety net, providing documentation for both the manufacturer and the consumer.

The manufacturer’s role is to send every batch of products to a verified lab for testing. This ensures that their products adhere to their internal process to ensure standards for quality control and also documents their business’s legitimacy. 

The Consumer can then rest assured with a sense of peace that the products they purchased are tested by experts making quality products which are safe for both possession and use. 

Continue reading to learn how to read and interpret the different terminologies in a COA.

Importance of certificates of analysis.

  • COA’s are valuable legal documentation made to ensure that a specific product from a batch or lot has met the specifications printed on the product’s label. It is an assurance to the customer that the manufacturer has properly reviewed, and has completed the necessary quality control process for their products. 
  • In a competitive CBD market, there are plenty of newly-established brands and the temptation to cut corners is prevalent. Although this is healthy in terms of spreading positive awareness about the applicability of CBD, not all companies practice transparency in their business operations. Especially when it comes to labeling, inaccurate labels could be misleading if the process of manufacturing a product does not prioritize the customer. As a result, a trusting customer may end up buying CBD products containing less of what is desired and more of what is not.
  • Every batch of a particular product undergoes quality assessment in the process of COA. Hence, it is an assurance to customers that the cannabinoid contents in the product are within their specified range. 

Who issues Certificates of Analysis?

A third-party independent licensed laboratory issues a certificate of analysis. The lab is not associated with the manufacturing company ensuring that the provided report is unbiased.

The test results documented in the report must fully comply with country-specific legal provisions approved for cannabis products to make the product ready for market.

Moreover, all types of laboratories that conduct quality tests for food, chemicals, and pharmaceutical products, operate on the guidelines provided by the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Also, these guidelines are mapped according to the requirements of WHO (World Health organization) and established as international GMP (Good manufacturing practices).

Where to find a COA?

You can easily find COA’s for all Nordic Oil products on our website. Depending on the product, we have provided the link to view and download a corresponding report.  The report’s file consists of a one to three page pdf document for every product listed directly on the product’s information section. 

Step-by-step: Finding a COA for our products.

  • Visit nordicoil.com. The menu bar shows you the different categories of our products, such as CBD Oils, CBD Capsules, CBD Topicals, CBD Vitamins
  • Click any category. You will then view a list of products within the specific product section. 
  • Click any product from the listed selection, and you will come to the page that contains details, ingredients, suggested use, and warnings. Here, you can find the link to third-party lab results. 

If you have more questions related to our COA’s, please feel free to contact the Nordic Oil customer support team. 

How do I  read a COA?

Now that you have understood where to find a COA, it is important to read and interpret the tested information. At a glance, it might look complicated. We will break down the steps for those customers curious to better understand a COA, and looking to apply this know how to purchase with confidence.

Grouping all the information provided in the certificate, we have two broad categories:

  • Basic information
  • Technical information

COA: Basic Information

COA – Title Page.

(i) The name, address, country of location, and contact information of the testing laboratory should be provided. This data verifies the lab’s legitimacy as a  third-party testing facility.

You can find these details directly beneath the laboratory’s name, or they may be located at the bottom of the certificate.

COA – End of Page

(ii) Name of the manufacturer or product brand to whom the COA is issued, along with their complete address and communication details in the case they should be contacted. This information helps you make sure that the COA corresponds to the particular product of the brand you purchased.

(iii) Date Received of the tested sample along with a date of the report issued confirms recency and relevancy.

(iv) Final details to look for under the basic information section are, Certificate number or ID, Sample ID, lot number, batch number, and product description along with the signature of the lab analyst.  

COA: Technical Information

(i) Method of analysis used in testing the different cannabinoids. 

(ii) Next is the section to review the test results summary. In the case of hemp, CBD, and cannabis products, a standard COA covers the following four aspects in a lab test that includes:

         (a)Cannabinoid profile and potency    (c) Terpenes profile

         (b) Mycotoxins, pesticides, etc              (d) Volatile compounds

COA – Showing Cannabinoid Profile & Potency.

 (a) Cannabinoid profile and potency section is presented in three columns. The first is the acronyms of cannabinoids such as THCV, CBD, CBDV, CBG, CBC, CBN, THCA, CBDA, CBGA, etc. The second column shows their weight in percentage. The values in the third column displays how many mg or ml of each cannabinoid in the measured concentration is available. In other words, how many mg/ ml of each cannabinoid is present per every mg/ml.

How do I  interpret these results?

This section is undoubtedly the most crucial part of the COA. First, review the list of cannabinoids and their corresponding percentage column. Here, you may confirm for yourself whether the percentages of your preferred cannabinoids are as prominent as you’d like, and if the values match with the details specified on the label. 

Moreover, this information helps to ensure that the hemp-based products that you have purchased comply with the legal limit of THC. In this section, you may also see a graphical representation of the same data in the COA.

Letters ‘ND’ stand for ‘non detectable’ in accordance to the federal limits of detection. In the case that you see a blank in this section, it means that no significant levels of the compound were detectable in the test, or that they were not above the legal limits. 

(b) In the next section, you can see the names of Mycotoxins, pesticides, harmful contaminants, heavy metals, and residual solvents. Toxins get measured in ppb (parts per billion), which equates to 1µ/ kg ( microgram per kilogram). Products undergoing this test are evaluated against the permissible value or maximum detectable limit (MDL). The result for toxins should stay below the MDL. Here, you may look for the symbol less than(﹤) MDL to get a PASS status in the COA. 

COA – Showing Mycotoxin Testing.

(c) Next comes the Terpenes profile, where the list of plant compounds and their CAS, or chemical identification number is given, referred to from the periodic table. Their concentration weight is measured and presented as a  percentage. Its peak is valued and quantitatively compared against certified federal reference standards, and is represented in ppm (parts per million). 

COA – Showing Terpenes Profile.

(d) Similar to the toxin analysis method, the test result for volatile organic compounds must show a PASS status after comparing its presence in ppm against the reporting limit (RL).

COA – Showing Analysis of Volatile Organic Compounds.

To sum up, learning to read a certificate of analysis gives you insight, confidence and reassurance  that the CBD product you purchased is comprehensively tested and is safe for your consumption.

Wrap up

  • Certificates of analysis are valid legal documents.
  • At Nordic Oil, we urge customers to request a COA before they purchase CBD products.
  • Certificates of analysis are an easy way to review the quality and standards of companies selling cannabis-infused products.
  • A COA may help those who are eager to start using CBD products but are sceptical about the product’s ingredients. 

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