Since the FDA is not currently regulating the substance, many dangerous or misleading products exist in the market. The best consumer defense against unsafe CBD is to purchase from a producer that has tested their products in an unaffiliated, ISO accredited laboratory to verify its contents.
CBD companies are not currently required to test their products. It’s up to individual companies to seek third-party testing and share results with consumers in the form of a Certificate of Analysis (COA). A COA is a document that ascertains the product has met its specifications by providing the list of ingredients, the batch number, method of analysis used, and the conclusion of the report, among other aspects.
No matter the reason for using CBD, whether it’s to manage pain or anxiety or provide relief for a senior pet, it should be tested to verify its potency, purity, and overall safety.
It’s important that the COA comes from an ISO accredited lab, though. If a company provides results from their own in-house testing, it is potentially inaccurate. Instead, consumers should always opt for CBD that has been tested for purity according to best practices. A couple of brands that exemplify excellent testing practices are Mission Farms CBD out of Oregon and Pure Relief hailing from North Carolina.
What does ISO mean?
ISO refers to the International Organization for Standardization. This is a group that started in 1946 with delegates from 25 countries meeting up to discuss the future of standardization across nations.
Today, ISO remains an independent, non-governmental, international organization. Collectively, they have developed over 23,112 International Standards across various industries.
The organization describes its standards as “a formula that describes the best way of doing something.” Whether it’s making a new product, supplying materials, or managing a process, standards exist to ensure it’s done right.
Manufacturers, sellers, customers, buyers, users, and regulators are among the many people involved in setting standards as they are either experts in the field or understand the needs of the organization they’re representing.
What does ISO accreditation mean? What about certification?
When looking into ISO accreditation, you may notice the term “ISO accredited” or “ISO certified” being thrown around. The two are very similar, but not the same.
ISO certification is a written assurance or seal of approval from a third party to a company as a whole. It serves to prove that the organization is compliant with relevant standards, though it does not require implementing additional means of quality control.
ISO accreditation is a formal recognition of an establishment’s ability to meet specified standards for a specific process. This comes as an independent, third-party endorsement of a certification.
Don’t worry if you’re confused. The two are often used interchangeably in error, which can make it even more difficult to sift through. Essentially, certification serves as a third-party endorsement of a company’s processes as a whole, and accreditation serves as a third-party endorsement of one aspect.
So, laboratories can receive accreditation for their specific activity: testing. When consumers see lab results from an accredited laboratory, they can trust that the testing processes were conducted in compliance with their accreditation.
Types of lab accreditation
Remember, there are thousands of standards created by ISO. Each applies to a different industry or subsection of an industry.
When it comes to laboratory testing, ISO/IEC 17025 is the main standard. According to ISO, 17025 “specifies the general requirements for the competence, impartiality and consistent operation of laboratories.” It applies to any organization that performs laboratory work, no matter the size.
Compliance with ISO 17025 standards is considered proof of competence for a laboratory. Even if a testing lab is compliant with all aspects of ISO 17025 standards, if they’re not accredited, the general public will not be aware. In order to be formally recognized as compliant, laboratories need to get their ISO 17025 accreditation.
It’s important to keep in mind that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) does not directly audit laboratories and accredit them. Rather, accreditation comes from organizations in specific areas.
The ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB), for example, is the largest accreditation body in the United States and works with organizations to obtain their accreditation.
Accreditation bodies may define certain requirements for specific processes. For example, ANAB worked to establish specific requirements for their Cannabis Testing Laboratory Accreditation Program with requirements for laboratories that perform chemical and microbiological analyses for a variety of cannabis samples.
Another accreditation body, A2LA, has laid out framework for cannabis testing. They have two paths, one for medical and one for recreational. Both require compliance with ISO 17025 standards. The medical accreditation requirements include meeting standards through other medical programs and the recreational path includes compliance with in-state requirements.
Keep in mind that these regulations are cannabis-specific and do not extend to hemp. Hemp is the fibrous, low-THC variation of the cannabis plant that CBD is derived from. However, many industrial hemp and CBD companies will voluntarily conform to cannabis testing standards.
CBD Testing: why ISO accreditation is important
Contrary to popular belief, CBD is not regulated by the FDA. So who is keeping watch over the industry and ensuring that the products are what they say they are? Unfortunately, nobody right now.
This can be dangerous. There are many examples of CBD products being inaccurately labeled. In one example, reporters purchased nine random CBD-infused products (oils, candies, etc) and sent them in for laboratory analysis. Every product failed to match the information on the label. Most products contained less CBD than advertised.
Not only can the CBD content be inaccurate, but unregulated products can also contain unsafe adulterants. In one report, one-third of commercially marketed products showed positive for synthetic and psychoactive adulterants. Some results showed zero CBD present in the products altogether.
To verify that a CBD product actually matches its description, it needs to be third-party tested from an ISO-accredited lab. In-house testing may be inaccurate because the testing methods may not be correct or those conducting the tests may be willing to tweak the results in the company’s favor.
ISO accredited labs take out all of the guesswork
In an unregulated market, ISO-accredited labs provide assurance of quality without bias or improper testing methods. Consumers know they’re testing products properly because they are ISO 17025 accredited.
If the CBD product in question has been tested by an accredited, third-party laboratory, you can be certain that the testing was conducted properly and the results are accurate.
CBD Testing: the bottom line
The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is an organization that establishes standards for a variety of industries. The group consists of manufacturers, sellers, customers, buyers, users, regulators, and other individuals.
ISO describes its standards as “a formula that describes the best way of doing something.”
ISO accreditation can be obtained by an authorized accreditation body to prove compliance with industry standards. While the ISO is responsible for setting standards, the group does not accredit organizations. Instead, accreditation bodies conduct audits of different organizations to ensure their processes are compliant with standards.
CBD companies should always test their products at an ISO-accredited, third-party laboratory to ensure quality. In an unregulated market, brands that go the extra mile to guarantee what you see is what you get are leading the way and providing safe access to CBD.