Episode 6: The Science Behind Lab Testing

CBD Podcast Episode 6

Joe: On this episode of the CBD University Podcast, third-party independent lab testing, learn about how you as consumers have all the information regarding your products from Hemp Bombs, Nature's Script and Pure Paws Hemp at your fingertips even before you purchase them. Independent lab testing keeps everyone honest and shows the true unbiased contents of every product. Hear all about it on this episode of the "CBD University Podcast" that starts right now.

I'm Joe Agostinelli, the host of the "CBD University Podcast" from Global Widget. If you are returning listener, thank you for tuning in once again and if you are a new listener, we are glad that you found us on your favorite podcast app and we'll let you know where you can subscribe to our podcast a little later on on this episode. And welcome to those watching on the Global Widget, excuse me, YouTube channel. You can see videos of all our past episodes on our YouTube channel. It's not enough just for us to do our own lab testing on products and that's why all our products go through an independent third-party lab testing process. And all I do is host the podcast and some communications. When it comes to the lab testing, we leave it up to the experts. So, that's why today I am privileged to welcome to the "CBD University Podcast" Dr. Andrew Hall of Green Scientific Labs, our partner in third-party independent lab testing. Andrew, welcome to the podcast.

Dr. Hall: Thank you for having me. How are you doing today?

Joe: Good. So, little background about yourself and about the lab, where you guys located and how big are you guys?

Dr. Hall: Sure. So, I'm the Chief Scientific Officer at Green Scientific Labs. One of the partners at Green Scientific Labs. I've been there for about a year now where we came from inception. In the past year, we've grown to become the largest ISO accredited lab in the state of Florida. Previous to this I've worked in California running one of the larger cannabis labs up there. And then prior to that I did a lot of preclinical drug development as well as cannabis testing in the state of Massachusetts. Before that, I originated in Florida. Fort Lauderdale is where I got my Ph.D., where I studied Natural Products Chemistry, hence why I'm so interested in you know, plant-based medicine, how this really ties into that market.

Joe: So, as you're talking about your background and all the different states and obviously very different, Massachusetts, California, Florida, how has that helped prepare you for this industry as this continues to change really all the time?

Dr. Hall: Well, I think when you look at this industry, things change every day. And I think the future of this industry really deals with compliance, regulatory and testing requirements to ensure accurate and safe products to the consumers. Seeing the variation between tests and requirements and the nuances between Massachusetts, California, and Florida really opened up my eyes towards a lot of other regulatory bodies, both federally, nationally, and understanding you gotta be on top of compliance in order to stay ahead in this industry. As we know with the hemp Farm Bill you know, it's opened up to interstate commerce. So, how is that going to be dictated between each state? It's really caused an issue. So, always staying ahead is really the name of game in this industry and it's taught me to stay on my toes and read a lot of boring legal paperwork most of the time.

Joe: And for research, I gotta do that too when we're talking different topics on the podcast. So, I understand that fully. When we talk about the boon in the industry since that Farm Bill of 2018, what challenges do consumers face now when choosing CBD products?

Dr. Hall: Well, now that it's kinda come out in the open, I think it's really finding quality products, you know, safe products and products tested to compliance. So, the challenges for consumers is really finding the right manufacturers that are doing things right, doing the right supply chain validations to make sure that what's going into it won't actually cause harm. And you can see a lot of the unregulated market in recent days with the whole cannabis scare and vape lung illness, it's due to unlicensed manufacturers putting in ingredients that, you know, have caused a lot of health risk and exposure to a lot of, you know, patients or consumers depending on how you look at it. You know, in this case, it's caused a lot of deaths. You know, so really finding the good manufacturers that know what they're doing, looking at what they're actually putting into it and you know, the different routes of administration is critical. You know, the CDC released that report on the vitamin E acetate, you know, vitamin E acetate isn't bad. It's sold in bulk for a lot of topical medications, but someone just thought a vitamin sounds like a vitamin, puts it in a product and doesn't realize that, you know, it's killing people in the end. Yeah.

Joe: I understand that Green Scientific is Florida's largest ISO 17025 accredited lab. Sounds very interesting, time-consuming and probably a lot goes into that accreditation. So, what does that mean?

Dr. Hall: You know, ISO is an internationally recognized standard which really just deals with compliance. What I look at ISO, it's a quality system, meaning it's a lot of paperwork and traceability verifying that everything's done properly, correct and everything is documented. Laboratory body that use ISO 17025 really look at the traceability of measurements, meaning are we weighing things correctly and are the products that we're using, you know, the correct purity. So, I'm not mislabeling or creating the wrong potency values. Technical competency of my staff. So, it has to deal with a lot of training of my staff, making sure they're good at what they're doing and actually show proficiencies, you know, that they're actually able to perform the job and give realistic qualified results in the end. You know, maintenance of the test equipment. Just because you buy an instrument doesn't mean it's going to test properly. I don't think a lot of people realize the nuances of taking care of these things, making sure they're calibrated properly and all these cross-checks. You know, so that's a lot of what the ISO accreditation does, is it makes sure that we have a system in place that will verify my staff is trained properly, my instruments are calibrated properly you know, and that the results that come off those instruments are correct. You know, nobody's perfect. I think my mom's the only one that's ever said that to me in my life you know, but it's about being able to rule out and find these issues. You know, there is bad data but we call those non-conformance reports. So, what we do is we'll look at the data and investigate what was the root cause. Meaning, does Jane Doe that works in my lab not know how to prepare the samples, does she need retraining, etc. You know, so, there's a lot of different facets to that.

You know, it goes even further to not only protecting the quality of the test, but you know, the samples once they arrived. So, were they stored in the right environment? You know, did I expose it to heat, which allowed microbial growth to occur? These are all little nuances. So, it creates a controlled loop, a controlled system that allows for, you know, quality samples in and quality results out. And results that are reviewed and actually looked at, not just you know, clicking of a button. And unfortunately, it's mounds of paperwork and that's, you know, needed to form traceability and you know, liability perspective because I think you see in this industry a lot of lab shopping about people wanting to get the numbers they want, but don't realize that these numbers tell a story and will help you find a root cause and help you improve your process to just become better and you know, take over the industry in general for the manufacturers.

Joe: We talk about that testing process, so what does it look like? You know, when we talk about a CBD product going through a third-party lab and we see some of the video, if you're watching us on our YouTube channel of our quality ingredients video which we had just shared across those social networks, but what goes into that process when you're testing? Well, maybe a short synopsis of what goes into that process when you're testing and then obviously consumers see the results.

Dr. Hall: Yeah. So, I think the first thing to have a good third-party lab is it's communication. You know, so really a lot of the time they'll talk to the clients and you know, the different manufacturers and understand what's in that product. And the reason why I do that is that there's not one test method that's appropriate for every single product type. So the more I know the better process I could actually put that product through. So you know, so if it's a vegan gummy versus a pectin gummy, the pectin wreaks havoc on the extraction methods which is why we put it down in different process. So, once we know what we're getting in, we make sure we can test for it as well. So at that point, clients order the samples and know what samples, what tests are ordered and make sure I have the right materials and the right reagents and consumables to prepare those tests. After that it gets logged in QR coded to create traceability, no miswriting of samples and it goes through my process. I don't think a lot of people understand that the most critical component to all these test is really how you treat the samples. So you know, we prepare them through various methods, different extraction techniques, solvents and the real chemistry portion and this is very specific to each product type. Once they're prepared, we wind up putting them on the various instruments with our own proprietary methods and you know, I give out those methods as well because I think the science needs to be out there in general. You know, upon finishing the result off the machine, we import that data through a direct upload onto our LIMS platform. At that point, it goes through stages of review you know, double-checking the integrity of the results, they're far off from label claim and also put in a lot of scrutiny on a lot of controls.

So, we have controls run with each batch to make sure that the instrument's calibrated. We have things for each product type that we do called matrix spikes where we actually spike in different cannabinoids or pesticides with your product to ensure that we are testing for it appropriately and that we have the right recovery and when I say 300, it is 300 and not skewed in that way. After it's gone through a series of quality control processes and quality assurances which are what I call it, which is probably the most time-consuming portion of the testing, you know, it winds up going into you know, my final box where, you know, I actually look at every report because I don't think it's...we can't run a lab without being hands-on and you know, trying to coach your team to the next step.

Joe: And then we talked about how this industry changes seems like on a daily basis. What challenge...and we talked about that from the consumer side, but what challenges does that pose for the lab staying on top of the latest technology that's available and any of the changes that come from a regulatory side?

Dr. Hall: So, I think from a technology standpoint, it's my hobby. So, I mean, I'm just staying on top of it at my extracurricular hours. When it comes to the testing standpoint, when you look at the fact that ingestible CBD hasn't really been regulated from a federal standpoint, this has created a system where every single state has created their own testing parameters you know, which is really causing issues as far as staying on top of it. Making sure you're testing for all the correct pesticides, all the residual solvents and all the correct microbes. When you look at a nationally compliant, you know, model, you're looking at almost 22 different microbes, 237 different residual solvents, over a hundred pesticides which has really caused havoc from a lab about making sure you have the right methods up, you've validated those methods, which are key to prove that your test methods are appropriate for running samples. You know, and then realizing two weeks later that there's a new pesticide, it kinda makes you have a scramble. But you know, trying to stay in complete compliance I think is gonna be an issue for laboratories in general. I think as you see federal rules come out with certain testing requirements like we saw about two weeks ago with the Farm Bill draft for testing. You know, there's a lot of nuances that don't really work well within this industry you know, which I do think needs to be addressed. You're talking about just the plant not necessarily the actual extraction or production or these products which now create issues where once they have a compliant product, once they start processing it into their final product, they're out of compliance and you know, technically handling hot "THC product" at that point.

Joe: Now, we talked a lot about the independent lab testing and the results and for consumers who may not be familiar with checking lab tests or viewing lab tests, you can access all of our third-party independent lab tests on our website and all of our brand's websites at hempbombs.com or naturescript.com and you can also scan the QR code on the back of your package. And when consumers are reviewing lab results, what are some of the items they should be looking forward to ensure that the product they're about to purchase or interested in purchase is of the highest quality and compliant with all regulations that are in place?

Dr. Hall: So, sadly what I see a lot of the times with these manufacturers is they're just running potency. And that just one level of indicator towards the quality of product. You know, so that's really knowing that it's met label claim and it's correct in that standpoint so you're buying what you have. What a lot of consumers don't understand is that's not where your risk comes from. Your risk comes from what you add to those products. You know, so being that this agricultural crop is really uncontrolled, there's no real supply chain control of that and all these different states have different [inaudible 00:14:34] as far as pesticides. Finding good clean source material and you know, material that's been extracted out that doesn't have high levels of pesticides, you know is critical. I've seen you know, upwards of 2% pesticides in products. And I think if anybody's smoking those products, you know, or ingesting it for that matter it's really not something that they want. You think about the plant, it's a plant. In order to get the CBD out you wind up putting it through a series of chemical techniques that form either your crude extracts or distillate or you know, your pure isolate. During that manufacturing process, you've introduced harmful solvents. This is normal in every industry for creating plants and you know, even your coffee beans, but under a good manufacturing standpoint, you've actually looked at it and you've made sure you removed any of those you know, trace levels of solvents.

When we talk about a lot of the sick people and you know in general, you know, you're talking about microbial and immunocompromised people. So, having the proper microbial screens is critical. But then again, this is a non-hygienic product. So, I think consumers need to be understanding of the fact that a perfectly clean product is not possible. It's all about having acceptable limits. And when you talk about some of these levels that are in parts per billion you know, you're talking about one droplet of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. So, it's relatively insignificant. However, those you know, those cartridges and you know, when we tested some illegal cartridges you know, that were THC for both that vitamin E acetate, which caused a lot of deaths as well as pesticides. I saw max 3% pesticides in some and upwards of 50% vitamin E acetate. So, looking at what's causing issues to the products you know, beyond that is really gonna be critical for them.

Thinking about it you know, your flavor profiles for a lot of their products come from the terpenes as well and in your aromas which is critical and as well as having metals, heavy metals like chromium and lead. Chromium is terrible for women in reproductive cycles and lead we already know causes people to go crazy. But what people don't know is this plan is used in Europe to actually remediate heavy metal contaminated land. Meaning this plant will just suck it right up out of the land, keep it in the plant, and it's no longer in the land but when you extract out these plants, that's where the metals go. You know, so now you have huge levels of metal and you know, consumers or patients, however you call them, you know, they're getting exposed to this. You know, so understanding what a supply chain validation is, and by that, understanding you're tracking the steps will just ensure a good quality product in the end.

Joe: And as we...hard to believe we're wrapping up 2019 and just a couple weeks here, but as we head into 2020, some of the biggest challenges that you see that may be facing not only consumers but the lab, you know, is it hard to predict because of the ever-changing nature? How do you prepare for the future?

Dr. Hall: It's a bit of both. And I think the future of this industry it's no longer in the dark. We're in the open, we're under the eyes of everybody, unlike a lot of other industries. You know, the name of the game is really gonna be compliance you know, good manufacturing practices and not really trying to push product out the door that you know is off. You know, companies like yourself, you can tell the difference in the products, meaning with the right supply chain validation and content uniformity tests and you know, really evaluating your process, finding root cause analysis and, you know, understanding what's going on is really gonna take this industry to the next level. I think first...and these products are, you know, they're expensive. You know, and as people scale up and you know, get more compliant there's going to be more competition out there where people can now choose between a pesticide filled product versus a clean product.

So, I think from an industry perspective, it's companies like you that are doing it right and hiring the right people to make sure that it's manufactured and looked at from a real industrial scale is going to be critical. From a lab testing standpoint, I think we have a lot of issues and in the sense that now that interstate commerce has opened up, how do we comply with all these different tests? You know, because a manufacturer doesn't want to run a test in every state. They just want one COA that'll be compliant nationally and you know, this is...cause a lot of communication issues and you know, we've been kind of talking to all the different regulatory bodies to how to figure this out. You know, I think hemp and cannabis has been, you know, really tied together for a long time in the terpenes. But if you look at the way this Farm Bill has proposed certain DEA regulations and DEA licenses, it's gonna be forcing hemp testing facilities to choose between cannabis or hemp. The second you have that license and you take cannabis from a licensed medical marijuana place, we're no longer in compliance and you know, at risk of losing your DEA license. So, having a testing body that can accommodate the entire facet of this industry is going to be very interesting. You know, and it's an upward battle but we're in for the challenge.

Joe: Well, Dr. Hall, I want to thank you for your time today and I'm sure we will have you on another episode of our podcast here down the road as we head into the new year. And I understand you and I are both from the same state, both from New York, I'm upstate New York and you're downstate New York closer to the city in Long Island. And I understand we share a love for the same baseball team.

Dr. Hall: Gotta love the Mets, man.

Joe: So, maybe next year at this time, we're not only talking about the latest in the industry but maybe we're reflecting on a 2020 world championship.

Dr. Hall: We should have it at the world championship, the next podcast.

Joe: That's a great idea. I'll see if I can get that expensed.

Dr. Hall: All right.

Joe: All right. I want to thank Dr. Hall for your time today as we talk all about independent third-party lab testing and for coming on our podcast, and I thank you for tuning in to this episode of the "CBD University Podcast." Listeners can find us and subscribe on their favorite podcast app and those apps include Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, SoundCloud, TuneIn Radio, Radio Republic, Stitcher, and more. Plus catch full episodes with video on the Global Widget YouTube channel we are waving to the cameras. And don't forget to submit your questions for our listener mailbag segments on future episodes of our podcast, you can email your questions at podcast@globalwidget.com. I'm Joe Agostinelli, the host of the "CBD University Podcast." Thanks for tuning in.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. CBD products are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. Always consult your personal physician about CBD and using CBD products. CBD should never be used by anyone under the age of 18. This podcast is not intended to provide legal advice regarding the legal status of CBD and CBD products.