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What Is a COA and How Do I Read It?

May 13, 2021

What Is a COA and How Do I Read It?

We live in an age with unprecedented access to information. The internet has given us the ability to research topics and gather information in minutes – information that used to take days to discover now takes minutes. You can easily glean this information from many sources, and companies can be more transparent than ever about their products and services.

This access to information has empowered consumers and enabled them to be more informed about their products. This is important within all product and service industries but is more vital in new markets like the hemp-based products industry. And one of the most effective tools in the hands of the hemp product consumer is the COA.

What Is a COA?

COA stands for Certificate of Analysis. This document attests that a specified good has undergone testing through an authority licensed to do that type of testing. This is used as a quality control measure and is usually found in the food, chemicals, wine and spirits, and pharmaceutical industries. The testing is normally done by an independent firm or laboratory that selects samples of the product and then runs a specified series of tests to establish the elements of a sample. Usually, those elements are determined by the party that has a vested interest in the results. Once the testing is done, the agency that has performed the procedure will then issue a Certificate of Analysis to show their findings.

CBD and Delta 8 THC products are tested at the request of the distributors in the hemp industry. This testing is done by an independent, third-party laboratory or other agency. The testing facility then issues a Certificate of Analysis that will disclose elements of the sample, such as the amount of each cannabinoid found and the presence of any toxins.

Why Is a COA Important?

A COA is a necessary tool for quality control that proves to any interested party that the elements of the product are as expected. This is obviously important in prepackaged consumables like food and beverages and especially important with pharmaceuticals. However, it is absolutely vital when it comes to hemp-based supplements like CBD and Delta 8 THC products.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with inspecting food and drugs. Every year, new foods and pharmaceuticals must get FDA approval before they can market their product. However, the FDA considers CBD, Delta 8 THC, and other hemp products to be supplements and, therefore, does not require FDA approval or FDA inspection for them to be in the marketplace.

Without this type of governmental oversight by the FDA, distributors are free to create and sell hemp products without restriction. While this opens the market, it also allows for some manufacturers to use misleading or inaccurate labels on their products. Some of those products may not contain the level of cannabinoid that is advertised on the label or, even worse, the product may contain harmful chemicals. For example, one independent study of CBD tinctures found that 70% of those tinctures tested had inaccurate labels.

This is why it is vital for any consumer hemp product you wish to purchase to be tested through a third-party laboratory. This is the only way to verify that the label is accurate and that there are no harmful substances within the product. You should always insist on inspecting the COA on any CBD, Delta 8 THC, or other hemp product before you purchase it.

How Do I Read a COA?

Every testing facility that issues a COA is unique, and most facilities have their own individual format. With that in mind, here are the significant areas for a COA that may or may not appear for a specific product.


At the top of the COA, you will find a header that holds the name of the testing company and the company that ordered the testing. You will also find the date that the tests were run in addition to specific batch information for those tests.


This section will list each of the cannabinoids found in the tested sample. Next to each cannabinoid, you will find a few categories.

  • LOQ – This stands for Limit of Quantitation. The testing facility sets this number, and it is the lowest level at which an element can be detected. If there is a less than sign (<) here, that means there wasn’t enough of that element to be detected.
  • Mass Percentage – This is the percent of the cannabinoid-based on the sample as a whole.
  • Mass Milligrams – This is the actual measure of the cannabinoid within the sample.


These are molds that may contaminate the hemp-derived product. These have names like ochratoxin, patulin, ergot, fusarium, or the most common, aflatoxin.

Residual Substances

This section shows if there were any heavy metals or other toxins picked up by the hemp plant while growing. This section also reports any solvents or other solutions that remained during the extraction process where the hemp oils were removed from the plant matter.

Terpene Profile

Plants all have a terpene profile. These terpenes are especially prevalent in fruits and flowers. Terpenes are what give each plant its unique smell, taste, and therapeutic properties. If you study the characteristics of terpenes, this profile will give you an idea of the taste, smell, and additional benefits that the product may hold.

Flavonoids Profile

Flavonoids are what give plants their color and also contribute to the plant’s therapeutic effects. Just like with terpenes, different flavonoids have different attributes and wellness benefits.


Most harmful microbes like salmonella, yeast, and mold are destroyed during the extraction process. If any remain, this section will show you each microbe and bacteria tested, along with the Colony Forming Units (CFU).

We Believe in COAs!

At PharmaCBD, we believe in the necessity of COAs in our industry. This is where every one of our hemp flower, ediblestinctures, or other products carry a COA, and we post them right on our website. You can always shop with confidence when you buy from PharmaCBD!