Microbial Testing Explained for Cannabis Quality Assurance Students

Microbial testing is an important part of quality assurance in the cannabis industry. Health Canada requires cannabis producers to conduct quality assurance tests, ensuring that any microbial or chemical contaminants are within the tolerance limit of the Cannabis Regulations

Students learning about cannabis might want to discover how quality assurance and control impacts the industry. Taking a cannabis training program can provide a solid foundation in good laboratory practices and the various laboratory techniques that impact quality assurance. This blog post aims to take a closer look at how microbial testing works, highlighting its uses and importance in the cannabis industry. 

An Overview of Microbial Testing and its Importance 

Microbial testing is a method that analyzes the microorganisms found in a subject (i.e. food items, beverages, or clinical samples). It’s typically used to study sanitation practices, analyzing the environment and equipment to ensure quality standards are met. Microbial testing is particularly useful in the cannabis industry as it can be used for the following purposes:

  • Investigating the microbial levels of irrigation water or compost
  • Checking the quality of wash water
  • Inspecting raw products before harvest 
  • Analyzing finished products before distribution

This is done to identify harmful microorganisms that can cause disease or illness, which require high-level replication in either the host themselves or on material ingested by the host. Once identified, specific measures can be taken to remove or inactivate these harmful bacteria and fungi—keeping microbial levels within the quality assurance standards enforced by existing regulations. 

Microbial testing allows cannabis industry professionals to check for harmful microorganisms on cannabis products

Understanding Which Microorganisms to Look for in Microbial Testing 

Students in cannabis industry training can learn about key plant sanitation measures and cannabis growing techniques, which serve as invaluable information that can be used to identify potential contamination risks. Studying the growth and processing procedures allows cannabis professionals to locate microbial threats that can develop during those stages. By conducting a microbial test, these professionals can identify harmful microorganisms—including the following:

  • Fungi (including mold and mildew) 
  • High levels of aerobic bacteria (partially caused by pesticides)
  • Coliform bacteria (like E.coli) 
  • Gram-negative bacteria (like enterobacteriaceae)

While various sanitation measures can be taken to ensure the safety of cannabis products, quality assurance professionals still need to consider the possibility of microbial threats withstanding industry-standard practices. Testing for pathogenic bacteria that can resist heat, along with any bacterial or fungal spores, is an important part of quality assurance in the cannabis industry.

Conducting microbial tests is an important part of cannabis quality assurance

Notable Considerations for Those with Cannabis Quality Assurance Careers

It should be noted that the cannabis industry is still growing. Despite the shared similarities with other industries (such as the food industry), the cannabis industry is inherently different—set apart by its broad range of products and their chemical properties, which require a unique set of regulations. As a result, those with cannabis quality assurance careers will begin to notice the use of new methodologies in microbial testing. While these new methodologies might produce faster results, they are often not as rigorously tested as older methodologies adopted from other industries.   

The cannabis industry is still growing, with new regulations affecting the cannabis industry and quality assurance

Moreover, many cannabis laboratories are experiencing high turnarounds as a result of changing regulations and an increase in client demands. These factors can influence microbial testing, affecting quality assurance measures in the cannabis industry.  

Are you interested in learning more about cannabis quality assurance?

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