Edible cannabis is made from hemp or stains of Cannabis Sativa plant with low content of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. The concentration of delta-9 THC is determined as a psychoactive element that initiates the euphoric feeling when consumed in a higher dosage.
Any cannabis product with a lower than 0.3% content of THC is considered hemp. While the potency of the cannabinoid profile is important in classifying the product in the right category, other important factors are equally important to be checked for edible cannabis in the food industry. Testing services that are necessary to establish food safety parameters will apply to edible cannabis products.
State’s role in food safety norms
Cannabis in the form of hemp and CBD is processed for many uses primarily as food or dietary supplement products. Owing to the nascency of the cannabis-infused food products industry and the lack of homogeneous regulations governing the clauses, it is meaningful for states to come up with directives to guide the growers and processing units. States should issue guidelines for food safety programs that consider the complexities involved in cannabis testing.
The important guidelines need to cover farm-to-fork stages from seed selection, cultivation and harvesting practices, testing procedures, extraction, storage, types of food additives allowed to be added with cannabis, packing, distribution and transportation.
Reasons for testing edible cannabis
Although there is no requirement to test cannabis products under federal law, some states have strict regulations with rules regarding potency limits in cannabis. But in the case of edible cannabis, the primary reason for testing is to establish the quality control norms that are followed in the processing of the product.
People who usually buy edible cannabis products are already immunocompromised individuals. Exposing them to other unsafe contaminations prone to plant-based processed products will lead to health complications and serious illness.
Another important aspect is that cannabinoids have a delayed effect, and often people consume more leading to complications. This problem can be overcome only through effective testing and labeling of the cannabinoid profile of a product.
The chemicals used in the processing stage need to be mentioned and have to be of food-grade quality. The monograms used as per Food Chemical Codex or FCC are used in edible cannabis packs as well for informed decisions. Testing for residual chemicals helps in assessing the safety of the product.
The important role of testing in the cannabis food industry
Food testing is pivotal in providing the end-consumer with safe-to-consume products. When the food is fresh produce that is picked from the garden, one is still not aware of the toxins in the ground and water, that may impact the safety of the food.
Food processing on the other hand goes through many stages and places where there is every chance of contamination from microbial and pest attacks. Other important aspects are residual chemicals in form of heavy metals that may be absorbed through the root system, residual pesticides found after the mandatory showers before harvesting, and chemicals used for upkeep or sanitization of all the food contact surfaces.
The two main factors that make testing relevant in the edible cannabis industry apart from the potency tests are:
- Microbial contaminations
- Residual chemicals
Mold, fungal, and yeast contaminations are a serious threat to plant-based products due to several reasons. The temperature control that is required to maintain a few processed foods can give rise to conditions where the spread and growth of mold are possible. The aflatoxins released by these pathogens cause serious illnesses like liver cancer. Other etiologic agents that include bacteria like Clostridium botulinum, Salmonella, and E Coli are a big concern for food industry safety programs. Testing at all stages of food processing helps in preventing and minimizing pathogenic contamination.
Residual chemicals in food crops are not new as even the recommended pesticides often leave traces despite best efforts to shower the plants before harvest. During storage and handling, food-grade chemicals are used to minimize the threat from pests like rodents and insects that spoil the food content.
Testing of chemicals involves citing the practices and additives used in cultivation, chemicals used in cleaning the tanks, the water report with details of water-borne microbes, and food-grade chemicals used in storing and handling. The documentation details are maintained for nearly five years as per current recommendations.
Benefits of testing in the food industry
Tracking and tracing what goes into the food that a unit manufactures is part of its quality control norms. Testing helps in overcoming any oversight that can lead to catastrophic results.
Testing cannabis product through third-party labs helps in establishing the details for customers, manufacturers and authorities thus covering holistic perspectives in the following manner:
Testing the product and labeling the contents help consumers of edible cannabis establish the safety of the products. Contaminated products are rejected and there will be instructions not to buy the product if the packaging shows signs of spoiled food. Food safety is guaranteed from contamination when testing and quality control practices are followed.
Testing also helps consumers gauge the potency of the product and stick to their prescription limits. Cannabinoids have a delayed response rate in showing calming or psychoactive responses. A person will be able to understand this point and not consume a higher dosage than recommended.
Manufacturers of cannabis products gain trust for their products that are tested through independent labs that exercise their opinion after a thorough examination. In this manner, there is no conflict of interest, and the safety of the product is ascertained through qualified opinion.
The edible cannabis industry is a focused one with its set of complexities that are product and perception specific. Combating both aspects and determining the truth about the product is necessary for everyone concerned. Without established trust moving ahead to create a brand reputation will be difficult for a complex product that has different responses to different people. Since the product lacks homogeneous compositions, standards of testing have to be compensated through the right efforts.