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Why The U.S. Hemp Authority Certification Matters To You

Posted by Kerry Hinkle on

Why The U.S. Hemp Authority Certification Matters To You

When shopping around for CBD in today's world, chances are you've asked yourself "How do I know this product is safe and legit?" It's a question I've seen in my 2+ years of working in the hemp industry.  Whenever you're talking about putting something into your body, safety is usually priority #1. 

The boom of CBD has hit, and now the free market is hitting back. There are new CBD companies popping up seemingly daily, many of them with bad intentions looking to make a quick buck on the "hot new thing".

We believe that every consumer across this country should have access to high quality, safe, and effective CBD, but these bad actors jeopardize that future.

This lack of oversight and consumer confidence in CBD is exactly why the U.S. Hemp Authority was formed.

Sign that reads CBD safety first.

 

What Is The U.S. Hemp Authority?

The U.S. Hemp Authority™ is a partner of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, which was responsible for helping pass the Farm Bill of 2018 which legalized hemp federally. 

According to their website, "The U.S. Hemp Authority™ Certification Program is our industry's initiative to provide high standards, best practices and self-regulation, giving confidence to consumers and law enforcement that hemp products are safe, and legal."

This is the exact type of regulatory body that is needed in the industry today. Their third party certification program includes restrictions on hemp-derived CBD being from genetically modified hemp, 1 year renewals for every company, and an all day physical inspection of your facility to audit things like safety procedures, extraction methods, how you cultivate your farm, and more.

You can find more information on their auditing methods and FAQs here.

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Who Administers These Audits?

Audits are done exclusively by FoodChain ID.  FoodChain ID has more than 20 years of experience in certification and verification within the food industry. FoodChain ID developed the first Non-GMO Certification Standard, as well as nearly 75% of all Non-GMO Project Verified Standards. They are now bringing their years of experience to the Hemp industry.

The first step is to apply for the certification by answering a few standard questions about the business.  Next, FoodChain ID representatives will schedule a time to perform the audit.  Once the audit has been passed, each business is responsible for renewing their certification every year.

They allow Hemp Growers, Processors, Manufacturers, and Brand Owners to apply for certification.

What The Audit Process Looks Like

The certification program is broken into three different parts, dependent on what type of business is applying for the certification.  There are requirements for Growers, Processors/Manufacturers, and Brand Owners.  We're going to dive a bit deeper into these different requirements, but you can also take a look at the entire U.S. Hemp Authority™ 2.0 Guidelines here. 

Hemp Growers Requirements 

 

Hemp farm that has been certified by the U.S. Hemp Authority.

 

There are 11 different categories for each grower, some of which include; Containment Testing, Hemp Cannabinoid Quantification, Storage, Transportation, Truth in Labeling, Record Retention, and an Overview of Best Farm Management Practices Worksheet. 

A few of the requirements that we want to expand upon today are the Potency/Strength Cannabinoid Quantification, Purity & Contaminants, and the Overview of Best Farm Management Practices Checklist.   

 

  • Potency/Strength Cannabinoid Quantification - These requirements include testing the THC content of their crop, testing of the flower, stalk, seeds, and leaves of the plant, and that all laboratories must be ISO 17025 accredited.  These steps help ensure that their crop is indeed Hemp, and not Marijuana, making it a federally legal product.
  • Purity & Contaminants - According to the U.S. Hemp Authority™ 2.0 Guidelines, “Hemp is a phytoremediator, meaning it absorbs contaminants in the soil including, among others, heavy metals and pesticides.” Because Hemp is a phytoremediator, the environment surrounding where it is grown is extremely critical to ensuring a safe end product for the consumer.  Under the guidelines set forth by the USHA, any Hemp Growers must test both their Soil & Harvested Plant Material for things like heavy metals, insecticides, pesticides, & more.  All of this testing is just another step to help ensure more confidence in the end product for consumers.
  • Overview of Best Farm Management Practices Checklist - We wanted to highlight this section of the guidelines for Hemp Growers because of how it encompasses a lot of the other requirements in the certification process.  Some of the items on the checklist include having soil tested for macro/micro nutrients, checking water quality reports, and having proper & sufficient storage for drying and transportation of Hemp.  While this is not a requirement for the certification, if a Hemp Grower is following this checklist, chances are higher that they’ll have a better end product.  

 

This list does not cover all the requirements set forth by the U.S. Hemp Authority™, but does give you a general sense in the extensive process that any Hemp Grower will have to go through in order to get approved from the U.S. Hemp Authority™.  



Processors/Manufacturer Requirements

Hemp processing plant that has been certified by the U.S. Hemp Authority.

This group has the most extensive requirements within the U.S. Hemp Authority 2.0 Guidance Procedures with 19 different categories to follow.  Some of these requirements are standard throughout the document, so we won’t need to cover all 19 categories.  However, a few notable ones to discuss are the Employee Training Protocols, Quality Management Systems, and Physical Plant & Grounds testing.  

  • Employee Training Protocols - This category falls under section 3.4 of the U.S. Hemp Authority™ 2.0 Guidance Procedures, but section 3.3 regarding Personnel Guidance is also closely related to this topic. 
  • Personnel Guidance - This ensures that all employees are taking contamination prevention and hygiene seriously.  This includes appropriate first aid equipment, washing hands regularly, wearing gloves when appropriate, and staying home from work if there appears to be an illness.  So, section 3.3 covers making sure all the employees that are working for a processor are okay to work around each other. 
  • Section 3.4, Employee Training Protocols - Ensures that all the employees are adequately trained to perform their job.  A Quality Assurance manager should continually train staff on things like emergency procedures, company policies, product testing, the U.S. Hemp Authority™ Guidance Procedures, and more.  This type of extensive, annual employee training should bring a level of consistency to individuals working on Hemp farms that has yet to be seen in this industry.
Quality Management Systems - This requirement establishes a Quality Management System to be put into place at “any point, step, or stage in the manufacturing process where control is necessary to ensure the quality of the hemp product”
  • This establishes specifications for quality management systems, guidance for the quality management personnel, and gives guidance on in-house & independent third party testing.  By requiring that all Hemp Processors/Manufacturers must have a quality management system in place, this puts a “checks & balances” system into place at all locations.  These “checks & balances” can prevent mistakes in the quality assurance of all hemp products from happening.  
  • One of the more notable sections with the quality management systems is the guidance for In-House/Independent lab testing.  Having third-party lab results on all of your hemp products has become pretty much an industry standard with all CBD companies.  However, according to this article on Kush.com, some companies have been known to fake their lab reports.  Some ways to tell a fake lab report versus a real one are things like vague information, lab name missing on the report, no names on the report, or no certification number.  This is yet another example of bad actors ruining the good name for the industry, and why having the U.S. Hemp Authority Seal of Approval is so important for every stake holder in Hemp.  


    Physical Plant & Grounds Testing
    - These requirements set forth guidelines in how the physical location of where the hemp is grown/housed should look..  Some of these requirements include;

      • Adequate space for housing equipment and materials needed for normal operation, adequate light, bathrooms, sanitary/cleaning plans, and adequate plumbing.  These are all requirements that basically establish a trustworthy, reliable space to house Hemp appropriately.
      • Processors/Manufacturers must also have a water supply that meets EPA standards for drinking water, proper drainage to prevent contamination of Hemp, and proper ground maintenance.  

        This list does not cover all the requirements set forth by the U.S. Hemp Authority™, but does give you a general sense in the extensive process that any Hemp Processor/ Manufacturer will have to go through in order to get approved from the U.S. Hemp Authority™.  

        Brand Owner Requirements For The U.S. Hemp Authority Certification

        CBD tincture that has been certified by the U.S. Hemp Authority.

        The final segment of Hemp stakeholders that could apply for the U.S. Hemp Authority Seal of Approval are the brand owners.  There are 12 different categories included in this section of the 2.0 guidance procedure.  Some of these we’ve already discussed, like employee training protocols or physical plant & grounds testing.  The notable requirements we’re going to be discussing in this section are the labeling requirements, supplier qualifications, and quality control related to recalls or adverse events.  

        Packaging & Labeling
        - This may be the most important regulations put forward in this entire 80 page document.  The packaging & labeling requirements set up some universal standards for products that have never been this uniform before.  Some of the requirements include;

        • Use of the terms “Isolate”, “Broad Spectrum“ & “Full Spectrum” should be consistent with the definition previously spelled out.  This means CBD isolate is defined as CBD by itself, Broad Spectrum is CBD & other cannabinoids, but no THC, and Full Spectrum is CBD, other cannabinoids, and no more than .3% THC.
          • All ingredients must be declared & must have a lot number & expiration date.  This establishes a hard date for retailers so as to not have products sold to consumers that could potentially be several years old, and also lets the consumer have the ability to look up the exact lot number from the various companies lab reports.   
          • All dietary supplements meant to support  the body must include the phrase“ This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” on every product.
            All products containing measurable amounts of cannabinoids should include proper warnings and cautions, such as the following:
            • This product should be used with caution when driving motor vehicles or operating heavy machinery.
            • Use this product under the guidance of a physician if you have a medical condition, are pregnant or lactating.
            • Keep out of the reach of children.
            • This product meets federal requirements for hemp products; however, consumption may be flagged by some drug tests.
            • Use with caution if subject to urinalysis
              This will be the most extensive look we take at this document, but we wanted to expand upon it thoroughly because of how truly game-changing these labeling requirements are for CBD companies.  Too often consumers have bought products that have been mislabeled, expired, or just simply fake. This is one of the most expansive & extensive labeling requirements in this new industry, and a much welcomed sight for everyone involved in growing the Hemp & CBD industry. 

              Supplier Qualifications - We wanted to expand upon this requirement to highlight how in-depth the U.S. Hemp Authority Certification truly is.  By requiring strict rules for suppliers, this brings high standards to every aspect from seed-to-shelf.  A few of the requirements for suppliers include;
              • Management or the Quality Management System must assess suppliers finished hemp products, materials, equipment, and more to then assign either “certified supplier” or “approved supplier”.  The records of these assessments must be kept on file and can be reviewed by the USHA at any point.
              • Proper documentation that allows for the tracing from raw hemp materials all the way to the finished product that consumers would purchase.  This could include orders, delivery notes, product labels, test results, and more. 
              • Material specifications like suppliers information, type of packaging, and testing for purity, physical & chemical characteristics, and microbiological standards.  
              Quality Control Operations Related to Product Complaints, Adverse Events, and Recalls - This is our final aspect of the U.S. Hemp Authority™ 2.0 Guidance Procedures that we’ll be looking at.  We chose this as the final topic because it covers what happens should something go wrong with your product, even if you followed all the other steps.  Recalls can happen in any industry, with any amount of regulation.  So, having a plan prepared for recalls is critical in ensuring the supply of quality hemp-derived products for consumers.  Here’s some of the details of these requirements;
              • Written procedures to assigning responsibility for reviewing material and either approving or rejecting specific suppliers.
              • Written documentation showing there were checks in quality control when first received, including names & dates for when these checks were performed.
              • Documentation for any material review, and what processes will be implemented to correct, prevent, or deviate from this unanticipated occurrence. 
              • The procedures that will need to be taken if any recall should have to take place.

               

              In a best case scenario, these rules & procedures should not have to be used.  But, we are in a new industry with problems & challenges that have never been seen before.  Having backup plans in place should something go wrong is the exact type of thing you should want to see from an organization attempting to bring regulation to this industry.  

              Why Is This Certification Important to Consumers?

              Office space meme that reads what does this all mean?

               

              So when shopping for CBD there's a few things every consumer should check for: 

              • Look for the Seal! Once a company passes the U.S. Hemp Authority™ robust audit process, they can use the Seal of Certification on their product labels, website, letterheads, and marketing material so a consumer can have confidence in the safety of the product.

              You can also check the certified companies list here.

              • Check for independent 3rd party lab reports/certificates of analysis. This is becoming more and more an industry standard for any CBD company, but it's still critical to have. You can find our lab reports here.

              These lab reports should help you understand the THC content of the product, that it has been tested for things like insecticides and pesticides, as well as a Terpene and Cannabinoid analysis so you know exactly what you're putting in your body. 

              • Watch out for any medical claims.  As pointed out in this article, any company certified by the U.S. Hemp Authority™ is not allowed to make any claims for what this product could do for you.  So, you shouldn’t see this issue with any of the products on this website, but you could if you start shopping outside of the USHA companies.  The FDA has sent warning letters to several companies that have been doing this, and you can read the full list of those companies here.

              It's Clear You Should Only Purchase CBD That's Been Certified By The U.S. Hemp Authority.

              All the companies that have passed the U.S. Hemp Authority™ certification process all believe they have the "best" CBD products on the market. We’re happy to get into a discussion between what makes one brand better than another, but the important role that the U.S. Hemp Authority has played is we are all on the same level playing field for the consumer in regards to safety.

              For an industry under as much scrutiny as we are, safety of our products must be the #1 priority for any CBD company in it for the long haul. There will be ongoing changes to these procedures, and updated Guidance plans to continually refine the standards we are holding ourselves too. 

              But, the mission is clearly stated, and how far we’ve come in only a short few years has been truly remarkable.  This company will only offer products from this highly regarded certification program so that we can confidently provide all of our customers with the best hemp-derived products on the market.  

               

              The content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. While research has shown that CBD has the potential to help provide beneficial outcomes for several complaints, it is advisable to seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider when you have questions regarding any medical condition and when starting, augmenting or discontinuing any existing health routine. 

              FDA Disclaimer: Any statements made within this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. No products produced, manufactured, marketed, or distributed are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult your physician before beginning any supplements or botanical extracts. If pregnant or breast feeding, consult with your physician before use. For use by adults 18+. Keep out of reach of children.

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