Editorial Article: Cannabis testing: The need for robust methods and true transparency

Alkemist Labs, an industry leader in botanical testing, highlights the importance of reliable equipment and harmonized practices in the rapidly changing cannabis landscape

13 Dec 2019

Petra Erlandson, Director of Sales & Marketing, Alkemist Labs

In this exclusive interview, we hear from Petra Erlandson of Alkemist Labs about the need for transparent and universal protocols in botanical testing.

Erlandson also reveals the key technologies that enable the team at Alkemist to test different material types and product matrixes reliably and accurately — and the importance of finding a manufacturer you can partner with effectively.

Robust and customized methods

One of the biggest method challenges faced by the botanical testing sector is the lack of fit-for-purpose methods for testing both raw materials and finished products. For many of the herbal ingredients commonly used in the dietary supplement industry, there are no compendial potency testing methods. Additionally, the methods that are in place are often developed for single-ingredient herbal extracts and are not always fit to be used for multi-component samples. 

Though Alkemist Labs can provide fit-for-purpose methods, for many labs the decision not to pursue these approaches boils down to cost. “While we are well-equipped to develop those methods, not enough clients make the investment in having us do that for them,” explains Erlandson.

We would absolutely recommend Phenomenex! They offer high-quality products, which we need to give our clients accurate results at a great value. Not only that, they also provide us with excellent technical service and sales support.

 Petra Erlandson

Alkemist Labs

Whether using compendial or customized methods, reliable and accurate testing requires reliable and accurate equipment. Erlandson tells us that the team uses a series of Phenomenex products during sample preparation and analytical testing of client samples, due to their robustness and long life expectancy. This is particularly important for third-party labs like Alkemist due to the variety of different material types and product matrixes that are being tested. “As we know from our own customer service, when you find a vendor with good products or services that you are happy working with, it makes everything so much less stressful. We order multiple items from Phenomenex because we’re happy with the quality and pricing, and they make it easy for us,” she explains.

Future advancements in botanical testing

Erlandson highlights the need for companies to commission method development for their specific customized ingredients and finished product formulations. These customized methods are not currently an aspect of regulatory compliance that are covered very thoroughly. However, this appears to be changing as the FDA is placing increasing importance on testing practices in its cGMP audits. 

“While the industry is continuing to improve in compliance with regulatory requirements, this generally seems to happen in reaction to an external force, such as bad press,” Erlandson says. “One possible development, though, is that as the legal environment for cannabis is harmonized, consumers may ask why the very robust and transparent testing practices followed in that sector do not extend to all herbs in commerce. We think it should.” 

Alkemist Labs offer botanical identification services and analytical testing solutions ©Alkemist Labs 

Accredited and transparent services 

Alkemist Labs is a pioneer in the natural products testing industry, promising full method transparency, personalized technical support, and unrivaled customer service to its clientele. 

The team’s expanded capabilities in phytochemical potency analysis means that their offering encompasses all herbs in commerce including cannabis and, Erlandson tells us, “with our expertise in this very specialized area of testing, we help clients in all aspects of ensuring that they know exactly what is in their products. Our support ranges from guiding clients through selection of reference materials to determining what tests are appropriate, to facilitating resolution if testing discrepancies arise. The end result gives clients confidence in their products and the tools to demonstrate it to regulators and customers.”

We consider Phenomenex an important partner to our long-term success.

Petra Erlandson

Alkemist Labs

Natural products are complex and require a combination of different analytical techniques with additional expertise on when and how to apply these techniques accurately. Erlandson highlights the subsequent importance of confirmed accreditation and Alkemist Labs’ commitment to transparency: “ISO/IEC 17025 flexible scope accreditation means outside specialists have confirmed our expertise. Our Certificate of Analysis is transparent and comprehensive, including everything needed to reproduce the analysis, and defend the results in front of auditors: full method and data disclosure. We also provide de-jargoned versions of test results suitable for disclosure to consumers.”

Erlandson is keen to emphasize what a strong ally Phenomenex has been in Alkemist's method development and business growth efforts, adding: "Their outstanding technical guidance has not only been critical to our routine business but also in the completion of several expansion projects."

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