How To Read A Hemp Certificate Of Analysis

  • Know what a COA is and why it’s important.
  • Know what to expect when reading a COA.
  • Understand what’s in your product, how to advertise it, and promote its safety.
  • Never purchase or sell a hemp product without a COA to accompany it.

What Is A Certificate Of Analysis (COA)?

The popularity of Hemp has been on rise for quite some time. Add in the federal legalization in 2018, and the industry has really been booming.

But with all industries, comes quick cash grabbers and scammers. So to standardize a “best-in-class” certification–the US. Hemp Authority™ instituted the U.S. Hemp Authority Certification Program.

Doing just that, a system of third party labs (that are endorsed and cleared with the U.S. Hemp Authority) provide a series of tests and analyses that show the quality of the product, cleanliness of the lab, purity of the raw materials, and the overall safety and efficacy of the process.

The result is called a Certificate of Analysis (COA)–and if your manufacturer or business doesn’t have one–it’s time to get on track.

Why Are COA’s So Important?

Just like USDA endorses its best meat, or the FDA clears products to be truthful, a COA ensures that the product that you’re buying is the highest quality product possible.

On top of your product being high quality, it provides a level of safety on both the federal and local level. Authorities know that a COA certified product or facility is fully functional, transparent, and legal. No federally-prohibited products are leaving its doors, and every product that is, meets the federal and local regulations of hemp sales.

While hemp is booming, a large portion of society still raises their eyebrows at the mention of it. A COA is more or less an ethical, commercial, and social insurance–unsafe or uncleared products will always turn heads, but not yours (because you’ve got a COA)

How to Look At The Analysis

So it’s vital, right! Check. Done!

Now how do you read it?

There’s a LOT of content that goes in a COA–much of that content goes wildly over our heads. They get to the root (almost literally) of the composition of the product. Not just that the product delivers on what it says it looks like, does, and is–but that the raw materials are safe, certified, and quality.

From The Top

Here you’ll find the standard stuff:

  • Product Name
  • Company
  • The testing facilities
  • Batch Numbers
  • Dates

These contents might not be standardized simply because each company’s layout is different. You can find a sample layout from Charlotte’s Web here (they were one of the first companies recognized by the certification system, so they’ve been around the block a few times–they’ve got a solid layout).

A few things you can decipher and should double check.

Note: Many companies provide QR Codes that can break down exactly what COA matches which product. It’s still important to cross reference and make sure that you’re completely compliant. Better safe than sorry.

Batch Number

THIS MUST match the product in consideration. Double check that your batch number matches your product–contact your manufacturer if there’s any discrepancies.


Like we said, this business is a “hemp”-ire that’s growing out of its infancy. Many of these testing companies are overworked and overloaded. If the date’s old or doesn’t match your batch, it may be a sign of the company’s incompetence, or that they’re behind on updating their info.

You have the right to demand up to date certifications for your product and ensure your compliance with the FDA, U.S. Hemp Authority

If you’re using a white label manufacturer, contact them to see all of their COA’s on file–double check their standards of manufacturing, as well as their compliance of quality assurance.

Test Results

Every page of a COA will have the same “top of card” information.

What you read underneath will differ. There’s a big rabbit hole for each of these products, so we’ll just give a quick breakdown of each.

  • Concentration: The tested concentration result should match your advertised concentration.
  • Cannabinoids: There’s a vast list of variants that can be detected in your product–regardless of your singular listed strain. If detected the result usually shows up in milligrams per milliliter or mg/mL.

    Remember that to be legal, your products must contain less than 0.3% THC.

    The company should list the testing facility as well and who performed the tests.
  • Microbial Testing: This is a Pass/Fail test checking for E. Coli, Salmonella, Coliforms, Yeast and Molds, etc.

    A Pass means none was found and the product is safe. Fail means there was too high a concentration found and it is unsafe for consumption.
  • Pesticides: This is a Pass/Fail test checking for the 9 most common pesticides in hemp agriculture.

    While hemp farming typically uses less pesticides, some farmers may use too high concentrations depending on their locale or practice. 

    A Pass means there are no harmful concentrations of pesticides found. A Fail means concentrations were found, and the product is unsafe for consumption.
  • Mycotoxins: This is a Pass/Fail test checking for species of mold that can contaminate hemp plants. 
  • Heavy Metals: This is a Pass/Fail test checking for presence of metals accumulated by the hemp plant during agriculture. 

    The hemp plant is a bioaccumulator that cleans the soil as it grows. As a result, it inevitably will accumulate trace remnants of antimony, arsenic, copper, nickel, lead, selenium, silver, mercury, and zinc–just to name a few.

    A Pass means the trace amounts were properfly farmed and safe for consumption. A Fail means the compounds were not safely farmed and the product is unsafe for consumption.
  • Terpene Profile: The hemp plant has unique terpenes and distinct aromas. Terpenes and cannabinoids come from the same glands on the cannabis plant.

    This is a Pass/Fail test to ensure quality of aromas and terpenes, visuals, and product density as advertised.
  • Flavonoid Test Profie: There are 23 flavonoids identified in cannabis.  Flavonoids are nutrient-rich pigments found in many plants, vegetables, fruits, and trees. 

    This is a Pass/Fail test to ensure nutritional product accuracy.
  • Genetic Testing: The genetic characteristics of different cannabis varieties (mistakenly referred to as “strains”) are of interest for both researchers and consumers.

    This is a “Detection” test to ensure presence–or lack thereof–of variants in the product.
  • Synthetic Cannabinoid: Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made chemicals designed to produce a psychoactive effect similar to THC.

    Synthetic cannabinoids are often more potent than naturally occurring THC.  The human body is not equipped with the tools needed to break them down.

    This is a “Detection” test to ensure there is no effecation of synthetics in the product.
  • Residual Solvents: Your product should also be tested for residual solvents. Solvents are sometimes used to extract the medicinal compounds of a Hemp product.  Each solvent will extract different compounds from the plant and have their pros and cons.

    This is a “Detection” test to ensure there is no effecation of synthetics in the product.

    There is no pass or fail, simply a way to let manufacturers, producers, and consumers know what the concentrations are.
  • Water Activity and Moisture Content: This test shows moisture content and water activity as mg/mL.

    The moisture content is a measurement of the total amount of water contained in the product. 

    The water activity measures the “excess” amount of water that’s available for microorganisms to use. 

    Both are important to manufacturers and producers in understanding how to control the growth of pathogens and prevent spoilage.

Further Considerations

The end of the report will have the name, date, and signature of the technicians who analyzed the sample (if each section wasn’t listed individually). 

This establishes the authenticity of the COA. 

A COA without signatures, dates, or verification IS VOID. Be sure to contact your manufacturer or testing facility if information is missing or incorrect.

The Product Label

Beware of products that make claims to cure cancer, autism, etc. 

The FDA does not support any medical claims for Hemp except for Epidiolex as indicated in the treatment of specific seizure disorders (Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome). 

The state of Florida also requests its Hemp approved licensees abide by these rules. Reputable companies will adhere to these guidelines.

Key Points

  • Always request a COA for every product.
  • Scrutinize each document.
  • Always ask questions and request additional information if needed.
  • If you’re unsure of a result, contact the lab or technician.
  • Double check the test results to make sure they’re compliant with federal and local regulations.
  • Use your COA as a method of endorsement when selling your product–be proud of quality assurance.
  • Never purchase a product without the accompanying COA for every offering in the portfolio.

Ask about our COA. Call 5Day Private Label and start your business TODAY!

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