Manufacturers of traditional consumer packaged goods (CPG) aspire to differentiate their products, often pursuing certification as USDA organic, vegan and non-GMO, among others attributes.

Beta Analytic, which provides bio-based content testing for a variety of industries, suggests another possibility for hemp and CBD manufacturers. They could turn to carbon-14 analysis to authenticate the “naturalness” of their products.

Jordan Turner, marketing coordinator for Beta Analytic, recently spoke to Cannabis Products Magazine about carbon-14 analysis, how the cannabis and hemp industries can use it, and its potential as a certifiable attribute.

CP: How would you describe Beta’s services?

JT: Beta Analytic provides natural product testing using carbon-14 analysis. The laboratory also provides bio-based content testing to confirm the biomass-derived content of materials such as bioplastics and household products, biogenic content testing on biofuels and gases, as well as traditional radiocarbon dating and stable isotopic analysis for researchers in the archaeological and geological fields.  

CP: What is carbon-14 analysis? How does it work?

JT: Carbon-14 is an isotope found in any material that is of plant or animal origin. Living organisms possess carbon-14 in known quantities, whereas materials that are petroleum-derived do not contain any carbon-14. 

Carbon-14 analysis can be used to determine if a product contains petroleum-derived adulterants, as opposed to natural-sourced ingredients. The carbon-14 present in a product can be measured to reveal what percentage of the material is naturally sourced and to identify the presence of ingredients originating from fossil sources. A result of 100 percent bio-based content proves a material is completely biomass-derived, while a product that only contains petrochemical-derived alternatives will result in 0 percent bio-based content. 

CP: Who currently uses carbon-14 analysis?

JT: Carbon-14 analysis for natural product testing is used by suppliers, manufacturers, quality assurance departments, and distributors of natural ingredients and products, including CBD extract and products, food flavors, essential oils, dietary supplements, and fragrances.

CP: Why should CBD brands be interested in carbon-14 analysis?

JT: This analysis can be used to verify if a product is naturally sourced or if it has been adulterated with petrochemical-derived ingredients. The results from carbon-14 analysis can be used by manufacturers and distributors of CBD extract and hemp products to reliably confirm their ingredients do not contain petroleum-derived adulterants. Test results can be used to support “natural” claims on product labeling and marketing. 

CP: What should brands pursuing carbon-14 authentication be aware of?

JT: Carbon-14 analysis does have limitations. For example, the analysis cannot identify specific sources (e.g. plant or animal source), nor the type or species of individual product ingredients. It only provides a measurement of natural-derived versus fossil-derived content.

CP: Can you see carbon-14 authentication becoming a certification or callout on products? Why or why not?

JT: The potential for carbon-14 authentication becoming more widely utilized to certify CBD products is possible. Currently, carbon-14 for bio-based testing is required by certification programs like the USDA BioPreferred program. Products including cosmetics, household cleaners, bioplastics, and packaging must meet a minimum bio-based content requirement to obtain the USDA Certified Biobased Product label. 

As CBD and other hemp products become more popular, there is potential for the development of similar certification processes and regulations. Carbon-14 testing is the only way to verify natural content and is a reliable scientific method that is already being used by established certification programs.

CP: How else could carbon-14 analysis benefit the hemp and cannabis industries?

JT: While natural product testing provides valuable insight into natural content and ingredient adulteration, another area carbon-14 analysis can be used is in the development of product packaging. Bio-based testing is applicable to bioplastics and packaging materials. The hemp and cannabis industries could ensure that their products as a whole are as natural and sustainable as possible by utilizing both natural product and bio-based testing throughout all stages of development from product formulation through the quality assurance process.

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