How to Read a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for Hemp-Derived Products

How to Read a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for Hemp-Derived Products

Do you ever wonder what’s in the products you buy? It’s a good question to ask — what you put into your body has a direct impact on your health, after all.

When it comes to hemp-derived products like CBD gummies or CBG tinctures, it’s important to inspect each product for reliability, efficacy, and safety. This is where a Certificate of Analysis (COA) comes in handy.

COAs help manufacturers maintain product quality while providing consumers with a transparent understanding of what their products contain. Continue on to learn more about COAs and how to read them!


What is a COA?

A COA, or Certificate of Analysis, is an official document that certifies a given product meets quality standards. COAs also verify that products comply with federal laws and local ordinances.

COAs are important because they provide consumers with transparency. With access to a manufacturer’s COAs, you can make an informed decision when purchasing products that affect your health and well-being.  

COAs are issued by third-party testing laboratories selected by the manufacturer. This means that an independent laboratory tests product samples and sends the test results back to the manufacturer that requested the testing. Manufacturers then label their products pursuant to the laboratory’s test results.

For hemp-derived products, laboratories test cannabinoid profiles and terpene ratios to ensure each product is dosed according to the label. They also test for things that may be hazardous to your health, including moisture content, mycotoxins, pesticides, residual solvents, foreign materials, and heavy metals. Ideally, manufacturers routinely provide updated COAs and label products accurately to reflect the test results.


Where can you find COAs?

Because COAs are extensive, multi-page documents, they can’t easily be printed on product labels. Manufacturers typically give the public access to their COAs on their designated product websites.

If the manufacturer doesn’t provide COAs on their website, you may be able to request documentation directly, typically by contacting the manufacturer’s quality assurance department.


How do you read a COA?

COAs can be confusing and difficult to read, especially if you’ve never seen one before. Luckily, there are plenty of examples out there that can help familiarize you with reading a COA!

Our favorite hemp-derived holistic health company is Bee’s Knees Wellness. Part of the reason we love them is because they post updated, thorough COAs on their website. This helps us understand that their products are safe, reliable, third-party tested, and effective.

If you have a moment, check out this page. Here you can find an extensive list of COAs that covers every product produced by Bee’s Knees Wellness!

Pull up any legitimate COA and you’ll notice the name of the third-party testing center on the first page. The laboratory typically lists its contact information and legal licensures underneath its logo.

 As you continue to examine the document, you’ll find the date that the testing occurred. The test date should be relatively recent, ensuring that the current product batch upholds the safety and efficacy standards set forth legally and by the company itself.

Most COAs provide a simple summary of the test’s findings. This information is usually presented at the beginning or at the very end of the document. With just a quick glance, consumers now understand that potency has been tested and that the product passed all inspections for heavy metals, mycotoxins, pesticides, residual solvents, pathogenic microbiology, and microbiology generally.

Beyond a simple (but helpful!) summary, COAs also use charts or grids to walk us through a detailed analysis of potency testing, showing consumers exactly how much of each cannabinoid every product contains. This helps consumers to dose accurately so that they experience desirable effects from the product.

You should also see various toxic exposures detailed in a similar format. This lets consumers know how much yeast, mold, and pathogenic microorganisms were discovered in the product.

The test results are often relayed using a grid or a chart. If the results column or section states something like “<LOQ” or “absence in 1g”, you have a very clean product on your hands! These terms mean that low or no detectable levels of specified pathogens were found.

An optimal COA boasts great results – ideally, the lowest possible quantity of heavy metals, mycotoxins, residual solvents, and pesticides were detected, and product potency reflects that which is printed on the label.

After reading through a reliable COA, you should feel confident that the product you’re purchasing is safe and reliable, meeting quality and efficacy standards at every level!


Although COAs can sometimes appear confusing or even overwhelming at first glance, they are of paramount importance when choosing products that ultimately impact your health. We hope that, after analyzing what to expect from a COA together, you feel confident when selecting hemp-derived products in the future!

time Jun 7, 2024

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