Lab Testing

What is a COA for CBD and How Do I Read It?

Wondering, “what is a COA?” Or don’t know the best way to approach reading one? We’ve got you covered. 

Firstly, Certificates of Analysis, or COAs, are a big topic here at Premium CBD. We emphasize the importance of checking the COA on every CBD product. That’s how you can confirm the product has met the specifications on its label. 

However, encouraging our readers to look at the COA on their product isn’t enough to ensure safety. COAs can be confusing to look at and it’s not always clear what the words on the page mean. Plus, what is a COA going to help with if you don’t know how to read it? 

We’ll break how to read a COA for CBD so you can get straight to the facts. 

Where to find the COA on CBD products

First of all, you can find the COA on a CBD product in a few different ways. It varies depending on the brand and state you’re in. 

In some states, CBD products are only legal to sell if they have a QR code. You can scan the codes to pull up the COA from a third-party laboratory. Therefore, this means consumers can scan the code and have all of the information at their fingertips. 

While QR codes may be a requirement in additional states in the future, they’re not currently the norm. Instead, consumers have to look at the product’s website or request a copy from the manufacturer. 

Before you buy CBD, you should always check the COA. If you can’t find one, or the manufacturer is not responsive to a request, choose a different product. 

Terms you’ll find on a COA  

Once you’ve located the COA, it’s time to read what it says. Now, don’t worry if you don’t know how to read a COA for CBD yet. COAs have a lot of information in one spot and it can be overwhelming at first. 

First, let’s look at the terms you’ll see on a COA:


First of all, get used to the word “cannabinoids.” You’ll be seeing it a lot. CBD is a cannabinoid. There may be many or few cannabinoids present in your product. This depends on if it’s full-spectrum, broad-spectrum or CBD isolate. 

Small amounts of THC can be present in CBD products. However, the COA will confirm that there is no more than the legal amount of 0.3% THC present. It will also confirm that the amount of CBD in the product is accurate. 

Additionally, you may notice other cannabinoids listed on your COA such as CBN and CBG. These occur naturally in the plant and are non-intoxicating. 


Pesticides are sometimes used to keep plants free of pests. However, they don’t just rinse off of the plants after they’ve taken care of the problem. Hemp tends to absorb pesticides. 

Along with that, pesticides directly applied to the surface will absorb into the plant. If there are pesticides in the soil, they will absorb through the plants’ roots. Then they will make their way into the final product. Even if farmers don’t directly add them, they may still unintentionally absorb into the plant.

Because of their high concentrations, pesticides in CBD oil can be dangerous to human and pet health. 

Heavy metals 

Although not intentional, many hemp-derived CBD products contain heavy metals. This can include lead, methyl mercury, and arsenic. Since hemp is so absorbent, if the soil it’s grown in is not safe, neither is the product. 

Residual solvents 

Solvents like butane, ethanol, and CO2 are popular choices for extraction. Laboratories can test to make sure these solvents are not in the final product. Leaving impurities like residual solvents in CBD can be harmful to users’ health.


Microbial tests look for microbes and bacteria found in plants. These can include salmonella, yeast, and molds. Your COA may or may not have a microbial analysis. 

Terpene profile 

Terpenes are nothing to worry about. They are compounds in cannabis and hemp that are responsible for its unique taste and aroma. Cannabis and hemp plants have many terpenes. Different terpene profiles lead to different effects, flavors, and smells. 

How to read a COA for CBD 

Now that we’ve answered “what is a coa?”, we’ll walk you through the process of reading it. 

Step-by-step instructions for reading a CBD COA 

  1. Verify the test is credible. 

If the CBD company in question also performed their tests, it’s not reliable. It’s important to make sure the test was conducted at a third-party, ISO-accredited laboratory. Otherwise, there may be bias in the reported results. 

You can usually find this information on the top left of the page. First, check the name of the laboratory that conducted the test. Make sure it doesn’t match the name of your product. Then, confirm that the sample and batch number and check the date. 

  1.  Check the cannabinoid content.

 This verifies the amount of CBD is accurately labeled. Look for D-9 THC and ensure the concentration is below 0.3%. It’s crucial to verify that this test includes all components based on the product type. If it’s full-spectrum of broad-spectrum CBD, it should have a full analysis of all of the other cannabinoids present. 

  1. Read the pesticide report. 

Units will be listed as ‘ppb’ which stands for parts per billion. You’ll see ‘LLD’ in one column, indicating the “lower limit of detection” for each listed pesticide. Under ‘Limits’ you’ll see the maximum allowance based on individual state guidelines. Match these up to ensure the product falls within limits. 

  1. Check the heavy metals analysis. 

This should show all of the metals tested and their chemical names and symbols. Scan through the concentrations. MDL is the lower limit of detection that lab tools can reach.

 ‘Use Limits’ and ‘Ingestion’ refer to the determined allowance by the state Department of Public Health and Pharmacopeia. If the number falls below the set limits, it’s determined to be safe for regular ingestion. 

  1. Read through the terpene profile analysis.

 You can look at the exact terpene profile of your product on the COA. Results will show the detected amount of terpenes by weight percent. 

  1. Check through any other results listed.

 Look over the microbial analysis and residual solvent tests to ensure purity. You’ll find an “ND” listed for each. This means “none detected.”

  1. See what’s missing from the report. 

Empowered consumers can decide exactly what they will and will not accept from their test results. But if they overlook major areas, such as pesticides, it’s a good idea to reach for a different product. 

Final thoughts for those wondering “what is a COA?”

Unfortunately, the CBD industry is susceptible to fraud. In fact, it’s an unregulated market. This makes it easy for some manufacturers to lie about their products for better financial gain. 

Additionally, it’s also an industry that is susceptible to unintentional misreporting. If a lab tries to test their own products for better transparency, they may have good intentions. But those good intentions may result in improper testing procedures or faulty equipment. 

The end result is the same: Improperly labeled CBD that is potentially dangerous to humans and their pets. 

The solution is to only purchase tested CBD products. Make sure the testing happens at ISO-accredited laboratories. Laboratories with ISO accreditation have proven they can conduct tests in accordance with industry standards. This eliminates room for error or fraud within the industry. 

Remember to always check the COA on your CBD products. Consumers must hold companies accountable to provide safe, quality products. If you can’t access a COA, move on to a more transparent CBD product. 

Pure CBD products have no detected levels of pesticides, solvents, heavy metals, or microbial contaminants.
Products must contain between 0-0.3% THC under the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.
Products should contain high concentrations of CBD and less than 0.3% THC.
CBD is not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration.