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Microbiological Testing of Cannabis in California: Expert Guide


Consumer safety should be the top priority for every cultivator and cannabis-based business. In other words, it is important that every cannabis product is free of bacteria, yeast, mold, and toxins.

That’s why California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control mandates cannabis bacteria testing as part of California’s cannabis compliance and regulations to ensure only high-quality and safe products enter the legal marketplace.

In fact, California is the first state in the US to require cannabis testing for pathogenic microbes, including:

·         Salmonella

·         Shiga toxin-producing E-coli (STEC)

·         Pathogenic Aspergillus species (A. niger, A. fumigatus, A. terreus, A. flavus)

California requires microbiological testing in inhaled cannabis products for all six pathogenic microbes listed above. And the non-inhaled products need to be tested for only STEC and salmonella.

Why is Cannabis Bacteria Testing Important?

Microbiological testing in cannabis is important to ensure consumers are not exposed to pathogens and harmful contaminants.

Some microbial contaminants may not be harmful, but users with compromised immune systems may be susceptible to contracting illnesses due to contamination.

When a cannabis product is contaminated with Aspergillus spores, for example, it can cause respiratory infection in immunocompromised people. Some studies have even shown that aspergillosis can occur in healthy individuals.

Some fungal contaminants produce mycotoxins, which are harmful secondary metabolites that are highly toxic even at low levels and can lead to illnesses and fatal conditions.

Also, there have been reported cases of Salmonella outbreaks due to the consumption of contaminated cannabis products.

Shiga-toxin producing E-coli and Salmonella species may cause gastroenteritis and diarrhea when consumed.

Cannabis bacteria testing is therefore important to ensure that your products are safe and free of pathogens that can cause harm to consumers.

Conventional Microbiological Testing

Unfortunately, many microbiological testing labs only use culture-based tests for cannabis bacteria testing. But these methods cannot really validate the presence of Aspergillus as it is notoriously difficult to grow this microbe in a culture medium.

Wondering why? Well, aspergillus grows very slowly, and its colonies often clump together, forming a heterogenous macro colony. For this reason, no commercially available culture-based test can detect Aspergillus.

Better Microbiological Testing Procedures

For the sake of quality cannabis testing, research advancement has led to the discovery of better and more efficient ways to conduct microbiological testing in cannabis to meet requirements for California compliance.

Belcosta Labs utilizes advanced methods such as the quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and genomic screening to rapidly screen for microorganisms potentially found in cannabis products.

Our microbiological team is composed of nationally renowned experts who have set standards for accurate testing methods. We are committed to giving the best in cannabis lab testing in California.

What Does Rapid Microbiological Testing Involve?

The rapid testing methods give results for either the presence or absence of all the six target microorganisms that California requires.

So for example, if Salmonella is detected within 1 gram of a cannabis sample, it means the entire batch fails, and it cannot be passed out for retail sale.

Before any failed batch can be released into the legal marketplace, it must be remediated, resubmitted, and must pass all laboratory testing.

Now, the qPCR method makes use of DNA to measure microbial contamination levels and the results are interpreted in Cq (quantification cycle). This is unlike culture-based tests that quantify their results using colony-forming units (CFU).

 It is important to note that there’s a clear-cut difference between qPCR and CFU. While qPCR measures the DNA load in a sample, CFU measures the number of colonies on a culture medium after an incubation period.

qPCR has been proven to be an accurate measure to get a clear picture of the potential harm of a cannabis product to consumers.

Why BelCosta Labs for Microbiological Testing in Cannabis?

At Belcosta Labs, our qPCR testing assays are designed to screen for all six of the required target microorganisms. This procedure provides the same or next-day results, unlike the culture-based methods that can take up to 24 hours to produce results.

Our procedures have been continuously accredited and validated by A2LA to be of high quality, and it complies with the guidelines of California cannabis testing.

So if you’re a cannabis and hemp grower or you’re into cannabis-based products, BelCosta Labs is a leader in cannabis lab testing in California, and we offer rapid cannabis bacteria testing to ensure your product is free of bacteria, mold, yeast, and toxin.

We are an ISO17025 third-party testing laboratory in California, and we are passionate and bent on maintaining high-quality, reliable, and repeatable results.

You can submit your sample or schedule a pickup with us and our dedicated customer service rep will walk you through the simple process for fast results.



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