In a 2019 report released by the UK Centre for Medical Cannabis, it was revealed that 11/29 products have less than 50% cannabis content. One particular product didn’t have any CBD content at all. The research tested the quality of about 30 popular CBD oils in the United Kingdom.
Such inferior products create terrible user experiences. This results in negative feedback that will affect the perception of CBD in the long run. So far, generalized regulation like general food law and trading standards apply to CBD in the United Kingdom. Now there isn’t any specific requirement to conduct tests ensuring safety and quality of CBD. This has led to an influx of bad actors in the market.
Producing extracts of such natural products is challenging since there is a natural variation. This makes it difficult to manufacture consistent finished products. Several factors impact the composition and quality of the material such as environmental, genetic and processing factors.
This is why it is essential to test the quality of hemp-derived ingredients such as cannabidiol . This ensures its safety for use and guarantees that consumers buy the best CBD oil in the UK.
What CBD Testing Involves
Cannabis sativa contains a lot of phytochemicals such as terpenes, cannabinoids, and phenolic compounds. These compounds are concentrated based on age, tissue type, chemotype, harvest, growth conditions as well as storage conditions. To analyze CBD ingredients or hemp extract, it is crucial to understand all compounds and the testing best practices.
CBD testing involves transporting samples to a specialist analytical laboratory to test it. Such testing involves checking for metals, pesticides, solvents, mycotoxins, and the likes. Two tests are important and they check THC and CBD content.
Poor Stability of CBD
The active ingredients in medicines are quite sensitive to temperature, light, and pressure. This applies to CBD as well. When it is extracted from the plant source, it degrades quickly. When it is processed into a finished product and kept on the shelves, its CBD content diminishes to lower levels than the required amounts.
This is why quality testing is done to verify the CBD content. The poor stability of the compound is one reason why it is mislabeled in the UK.
THC Testing Process
THC is still a controlled substance in several states including the UK. This is another reason why raw material CBD is tested to confirm that it has low levels of THC. Manufacturers must exercise caution because some labs do not offer proper testing. Such products put the CBD extract at risk of seizure by the authorities.
The single way to ascertain the THC level is by conducting the accredited ISO 17025 test. The police use this test often. This type of test is often conducted by different labs. An independent body usually with government supervision or accreditation body is responsible for verifying the veracity of the ISO procedure.This accreditation is a sign of both reliability and quality.
Testing for Solvents, Pesticides, Metal, and Mycotoxins
Pesticides: CBD extracts gotten from botanical material is at risk of exposure to pesticides. This is why testing the finished or raw material is ideal. There are global guidelines on pesticide limits in products. For crops, it is zero while others are recorded as < 0.01 ppm.
Fungal and microbial contaminants: the tolerance limit for fungi and microbes is the same for dietary supplements and food and should be as low as possible to ensure the safety of the consumer. The tolerance levels require adjustments according to the extraction method. However, there are a few guidelines to help. They include:
- < 1,000 CFU/g Bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria
- < 10,000 CFU/g Total yeast and mold
- < 10,000 CFU/g Total aerobic plate count
- < 1,000 CFU/g Total coliforms
Note that CBD oil prepared with solvent-based extracts and carbon dioxide reduces the microbial limits by 10 folds.
Ochratoxins and aflatoxins are fungal metabolites. Both are associated with hemp and other ingredients derived from hemp. It is tested in CBD extract preparations. Some types of aflatoxins are made by aspergillus and penicillium molds. Ingesting any of these can result in severe damage to the kidneys.
Mycotoxins are potential contaminants found in food commodities. Fungal contamination occurs during different processes from growth to harvesting as well as storage. Both finished and raw materials are subjected to quality testing for this reason.
Heavy metals: these compounds share the same tolerance limits for dietary supplements and food. It is also set at the lowest possible level. Plants that are grown in fields outdoors are more at risk of exposure to such heavy metals. Plants grown in greenhouses are slightly better. Products derived from cannabis are tested for heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. The general requirement for this is as follows:
- Cadmium less than/equal to 1 ppm
- Arsenic less than/equal to 1 ppm
- Mercury less than/equal to 0.1 ppm
- Lead less than/equal to 3 ppm
Residual solvents: for CBD extracts made with the solvent extraction process, tolerance limits are established for residual solvents like propane, butane, ethanol, and hexane. The use of carbon tetrachloride and benzene, class 1 solvents, are avoided since they are hazards. The class 2 solvents have permissible daily exposures. One example is 2.9mg for hexane daily. Class 3 solvents are different and the resident solvent levels here should not exceed 0.5% or 5,000 per 10gram of product.
Cannabis also contains some compounds that are known for reproductive toxicity and cancer such as acetaldehyde, beta-myrcene, and pulegone. Since this beta myrcene is always present in CBD oil, it is quantitated and an appropriate warning is added to this effect in many countries.
Also, the CBD is tested for terpenes and cannabinoids. The testing is done to quantify other cannabinoids like CBC and CBG since they come in small quantities. This process can be costly and difficult.
All of these compounds are tested to ensure the quality of CBD extract. It also ensures that the THC levels remain within the required level in the UK. Sadly. Also, CBD is highly unstable and lack of quality testing will result in bad consumer experience.