At the 2023 Eastern Analytical Symposium (EAS), Jini Glaros, the Chief Scientific Officer of Modern Canna Labs discussed with attendees the importance of accuracy and safety in the cannabis industry in her talk titled, “Accurate Identification and Quantification of Contaminants – Understanding the Impact of the Cannabis Matrix”.
On Day 3 of the Eastern Analytical Symposium (EAS), Jini Glaros, the Chief Scientific Officer of Modern Canna Labs, presented her talk called, “Accurate Identification and Quantification of Contaminants – Understanding the Impact of the Cannabis Matrix”. Here, she was able to teach attendees of how crucial it is for there to be compliance in the medical cannabis industry.
Glaros mentioned how Modern Canna Labs, located in Lakeland, Florida, is one of nine laboratories responsible for testing all of the medical cannabis products in Florida. “Once a producer finalizes their product creates it and final product packaging, we go out with like that sample and we start sampling,” Glaros said.
Her presentation discussed the challenges encountered when testing cannabis for contaminants and how these difficulties can affect the accurate identification and quantification of such contaminants. The contaminants tested include agricultural agents such as pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. For mycotoxins they test for a variety for example aflatoxins and ochratoxins. When it comes to microbials, they look for bacteria such as Salmonella, Aspergillus, and E. coli. Lastly, labs need to investigate samples for heavy metals which include arsenic and lead, and solvents such as hexane and ethanol.
Glaros highlighted the impact of concentrating contaminants, similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), during the process of turning flowers into distillate. This concentration makes accurate testing crucial for consumer safety, which she made sure to emphasize its importance. She mentioned that the lack of standardized methodologies, varying regulations between states, and different testing requirements all lead to inconsistent results received across different laboratories.
“We are getting to a point where we're creating standard methods organizations like American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Association of Official Agricultural Chemists (AOAC) are putting out cannabis specific methods. But up to this point states still aren't necessarily requiring the lab to use those standardized methods,” Glaros commented.
Her slides covered the issues of matrix effects and interferences in testing, particularly regarding total yeast and mold analysis. This also included yeast and mold analyses needing longer incubation times, lack of reproducibility between plate types, as well as suppression due to high microbial loads, were communicated as challenges in achieving accurate results.
Glaros underlined the necessity of using matrix calibrations to mitigate matrix effects in testing for agricultural agents and mycotoxins. In the regard to the use of laboratory control samples, blank spikes, and matrix spike duplicates in each analytical batch it was recommended for quality control to identify matrix impact on results.
Later on in the presentation, Glaros discussed the issues of background noise and laboratory contamination, notably seen in residual solvent analysis. To help address this problem, Glaros showed attendees that use of compressed ultra-high purity nitrogen could be used as a technique to mitigate these issues, which would improve sensitivity and accuracy in testing.
Glaros said to attendees that, “Fully understanding each analysis and the impact that cannabis has on the analysis is really an essential to ensuring that you're able to produce accurate results.”
To close up her presentation, Glaros provided final comments on the complex nature of the cannabis matrix and how it poses serious challenges for laboratories testing medical cannabis products. It is important for there to be standardization, quality control measures, and ongoing communication among laboratories which Glaros highlighted are essential to ensuring accurate and reliable results in the growth of the cannabis industry.