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Understanding a Certificate of Analysis

A Certificate of Analysis (COA, Figure 1) is a document that provides laboratory results for tests conducted. It is given to customers who pay for testing from an analytical laboratory with ISO/IEC 17025 (or equivalent) accreditation for their developing sample/product. The test results can verify if the sample or product meets regulatory requirements as well as inform consumers about the product they intend to purchase. While the format for a COA varies between laboratories, this article aims to break down and explain Ionization Labs’ COA format.

Figure 1. An Ionization Labs Certificate of Analysis for cannabinoid potency

The COA can be broken down into 4 sections (Figure 2): Prepared For (Red), VERISEAL Authentication (Orange), Sample Information (Yellow), and Cannabinoid Potency and Profile (Green).

Figure 2. The highlighted sections of the COA

Prepared For Section

Figure 3. The Prepared For section of the COA

At the very top left of the COA is the Prepared For section (Figure 3). This shows the contact information for Ionization Labs. A scannable QR code that will open a PDF of the current COA. Manufacturers can use this QR code on their finished product labels so their customers have access to the COA. The “Prepared For” will have the name of the client along with their address and logo if they decide to include it on the COA.



Figure 4. The VERISEAL information on the COA

The top right of the COA is the VERISEAL information (Figure 4). The VERISEAL is a third-party authentication where COA data is written and stored on a blockchain to prevent any fraudulent COA from being circulated. If an Ionization Labs COA does not have the VERISEAL, the COA is fraudulent. The VERISEAL allows users to check the validity of the COA. Customers can download the Certus app from the app store (shown by the smaller QR code) to scan the larger QR code for the official VERISEAL. If the information on the scanned VERISEAL does not match what is on the COA, the COA is fraudulent.


Sample Information Section

Figure 5. The Sample Information section of the COA 

The Sample Information section (Figure 5) contains what the sample is along with any notes from when it was tested at Ionization Labs. On the top left there is the Test Date, which shows what time the sample was tested in the lab, the Sample/Strain Name, which is the name of the sample provided by the client, the Lot #/Batch ID, which contains the Lot # or Batch ID provided by the client. 

The top right boxes show the Sample Type (i.e. Flower, Vape, Tincture, Edible, Gummy, etc.) and the IL Unique ID, the ID assigned by Ionization Labs to the sample. If clients are testing products that have a unit weight (i.e. a whole bottle of lotion, an entire gummy, etc.), a unit weight section would appear below the IL Unique ID.

The next row of boxes are the Analyst Name and Signature, the name of the analyst at Ionization Labs that prepared, ran, and analyzed the data for the sample. The Reviewer Name and Signature sections identify who reviewed and approved the sample’s data and information.

The last rows are the Sample Description and Notes section. This area provides clients a written description of the sample by Ionization Labs and any notes that the lab would want customers to know.


Cannabinoid Potency and Profile Section

Figure 6. Cannabinoid Potency and Profile section of the COA

The Cannabinoid Potency and Profile section are the results from the laboratory testing (Figure 6). The table on the left side includes all 14 cannabinoids Ionization Labs tests for and their respective amounts found in the analyzed sample. The column on the far left is the name of the cannabinoid/analyte, the middle column is the amount reported in a percentage, and the far right column is the amount reported in a milligrams/gram (mg/g) ratio. If customers provide a product unit weight and request a reporting in something other than mg/g, an additional column will be seen reporting the amounts in milligrams per unit weight (i.e. mg/gummy, mg/bottle, mg/candy, etc.). “N/D” stands for “Non-Detect”, meaning the specific cannabinoid/analyte was not found at all in the sample/product. “<LOQ '' means that the amount of cannabinoid found was below our Limit of Quantification. The cannabinoid is present, but is below the quantification range.

The right side is a picture of the sample taken when the lab received the sample. Below the image are the calculated total potential amounts of THC and CBD, reported in both a percentage and a mg/g ratio. Clients can request these to be changed to any of the other 14 cannabinoids Ionization Labs tests for such as total amount of CBG, CBN, CBC, etc.

Below the cannabinoid profile table is a bar graph (Figure 6) of the relevant cannabinoids that were found in the sample. The higher the potency, reported in mg/g, the higher the bar in the graph. The equations used to calculate the total potential for various cannabinoids is shown below the bar graph. The percentage of acids is multiplied by a factor to account for the loss of the acid during decarboxylation and converting the cannabinoid to the respective neutral compound.

Lastly, there is a disclaimer from Ionization Labs that the results were tested in accordance with our procedures and standards, and to the right are the laboratory’s registration numbers for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), A2LA, and Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).

References used:

  1. ISO/IEC 17025 — Testing and calibration laboratories
  2. DEA Registration
  3. Cannabis Testing Laboratory Accreditation Program | A2LA
  4. Texas Industrial Hemp Program

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