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How to Read a Certificate of Analysis

What it is, why it’s important, and how to understand it

Purchasing anything that you consume is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Nowadays, more than ever, people are reading ingredients, looking up words, just overall making sure they know what they’re eating, drinking, and putting on their skin. So when it comes to cannabis and hemp products, the impulse should be no different. I’m here to talk to you today about something called a certificate of analysis or COA: a valuable tool in knowing what you’re putting in or on your body.

A certificate of analysis is something that comes with your cannabis or hemp derived products, which breaks down the product makeup of what you’ve just purchased. A COA is going to make sure you know that the cannabinoids you’re consuming have passed inspection, that they are safe to use and are exactly what their producers claim they are.

Let’s take the hemp extract and CBD company High Peaks for example. High Peaks is a company based out of South Carolina that makes everything from pet supplements to sleep-aids. High Peaks is 100% American farmed hemp. They do this to ensure consistency in their product and create jobs in America. High Peaks’ goal is to promote the various health benefits from CBD and hemp extract with products like protein bars, sparkling water, tinctures and even energy drinks.

Just with that brief introduction to High Peaks, it shouldn’t surprise you that they have easy to read COA’s for each of their products. Let’s take a closer look at just one of these products to fully explain with the certificate of analysis means.

I’m a big fan of their protein bars, particularly the peanut butter chocolate flavor, and I’m a little hungry right now, so let’s use this as an example. Here is the link to the COA for you to follow along with. Right away you will see a lot of the information is stuff we are familiar with as consumers that are not part of the COA: manufactured and expiration date, allergen warnings, ingredients, sugars, protein, fiber, and calories for example. High Peaks also includes where the botanical substance is sourced from: hemp, which is federally legal under the farm bill of 2018.

Before you even get to the QR code at the bottom with the actual COA, you can also see right up top that this is produced in a GMP certified facility. GMP stands for Good Manufacturing Practices and they are regulated by the FDA. This is simply a process of quality control and testing. Companies like High Peaks have passed inspection, making their products safe and effective for consumers per the guidelines of the GMP. So this little detail is a huge deal.

Now you’re going to see the ‘Qualitative Analysis’ section, where High Peaks is telling you how the product rates in regards to: foreign matter, color, smell, product feel, and taste. In the middle column you’ll see words that you’re probably familiar with. This is just describing the texture, taste, and smell of the protein bar. The final column is a little more intimidating; it says that the product ‘conforms’, so what exactly does that mean? It simply means that the product has reached all the standards High Peaks has set for themselves. Which leads us to the QR code on the bottom: the certificate of analysis.

Go ahead and scan that QR code. It will direct you to the COA, certified by Kaycha Labs, a third-party laboratory which tested the High Peaks Peanut Butter Chocolate protein bar. These results will show that there were no pesticides, heavy metals, microbials, mycotoxins, residual solvents, or filth in the hemp extract. You can see that this has also been tested for THC, which it has none of, and more than 95% CBD. The CBD accounts for the entirety of the cannabinoids present in this product. So right away the certificate of analysis is showing that the product is exactly as advertised.

Scrolling down, you can see the specific tests that Kaycha Labs performed. This is where you see what residual solvents were tested for and that this product passed every test. Yay for High Peaks! They did better on this test than I did on literally every test I ever took.

Understanding what you consume is important. Fortunately for us, we have companies like High Peaks which aim to be transparent to the consumer. By manufacturing in GMP certified facilities, by utilizing third-party labs for extra testing, and by including all of the findings and certificates on their COA, High Peaks ensures that the consumer has all their information.

I hope this article has helped you better understand what exactly a certificate of analysis is and how you can utilize it to be a more informed consumer. In the end it’s important to remember that companies that don’t give a lot of information, probably don’t want you to know what the information is. So companies like High Peaks really stand out in this area and I encourage you to support them and companies like them!