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Setting a new quality standard in the Cannabis Industry

Updated: Dec 31, 2018

Cannabis and Microbial Contamination: It’s the Little Things That Count.



You have likely heard about the recent romaine lettuce recall as it was all over the news and notices were in grocery stores to explain the lack of leafy greens. But how does it affect you as a #cannabis #grower? In addition to taking a break from Caesar salads, the situation has some juicy tidbits that can help you avoid a similar recall of your product. 


How can you prevent a recall of your product due to microbial contamination? The answer is process control. If you control everything that comes in contact with your product during the growing and packaging processes, you can control the quality of the product you produce.

The vital takeaway message is that microbial contamination is a pretty big deal. Recalls are costly for the producer when recalled product is destroyed and is damaging to a business reputation. If faced with a choice between a brand that has been recalled due to microbial contamination and one that has not, which would you choose? Knowing that E. coli contamination can cause stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea, customers will choose the brand that has never been found to cause illness. Illnesses from contaminated product can be very serious and sometimes fatal. Global News reported that 200 people were sickened and five died in the tainted lettuce outbreak this spring. Not exactly the kind of whole-body customer experience you are working for.


How can you prevent a recall of your product due to #microbial #contamination? The answer is #process #control. If you control everything that comes in contact with your product during the growing and packaging processes, you can control the quality of the product you produce. Different microbes have different sources. Lettuce producers are having problems with Escherichia coliso let’s focus on it for now. The same logic applies to all #contaminants, know where it comes from and think about how to keep it away from your product. 


According to the Center for Disease Control’s website, Escherichia coli (abbreviated as E. coli) are bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals. Consider how microbes found in the intestines can escape to contaminate produce or water you quickly realize fecal matter is the culprit. Bluntly, E. coli contamination usually comes from poop. Avoiding it is not always as straight forward as it seems. In the romaine lettuce investigation, the FDA is considering proximity of cattle to the irrigation water source, birds flying overhead and wildlife walking through and around crops to be potential sources of contamination. Luckily, cannabis is usually grown in more controlled conditions than lettuce but it’s still important to consider the cleanliness of your water, as well as where your boots, tools, hands and holding vessels were prior to entering your facility. 


Health Canada requirements for cannabis include testing for the presence of E. coli as well as other pathogenic microbes. End product testing is a great way to protect customers from contaminated product but a failure of the final product is still costly and time consuming for the producer. If there are many potential sources of contamination it will take time and money to pinpoint and correct the root cause. It is always better to build quality into the product rather than cross your fingers and hope for the best.


[Written by Sherry Lawson for #KeystoneLabs ]

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