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Have you ever failed microbial testing?

Hey guys,

Full disclosure, I work for Medicinal Genomics. We created a DNA-based microbial safety testing platform for cannabis testing labs.

Our customers are the labs, but you, the grower, are our customer’s customer. I think we need to do a better job of getting to know you guys, so we can help the labs better serve you.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask a few general questions about your experience with microbial testing. Specifically, have you ever failed microbial testing? Have you failed more than once? Do you know which type of testing your lab uses (plating, qPCR, microarray)?

Interested to hear your feedback!

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What happens when you fail microbial testing? What happens to the product?

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Curious about what you test for?
Does the testing discriminate between beneficial organisms and bad guys?

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We certainly can discriminate between beneficial and harmful microbes. That’s one of the many benefits of DNA-based testing. However, we have designed our current test menu to mirror what is required by the states, which includes several “Total Count Tests”. So in the case of tests like Total Aerobic Count and Total Yeast and Mold, we do not discriminate. We identify any species that fall into those broad groups.

We also offer “Species-Specific Tests” for Aspergillus (niger, flavus, fumigatus, and terreus), E. Coli, STEC, and Salmonella for the states that require those test. We feel these are much more appropriate for protecting consumers. Total count tests can fail samples that have elevated levels of beneficial microbes and end up encouraging the use of harmful pesticides.

Finally, we are also developing species-specific tests for other microbes that are not required by the states (Powdery Mildew, Botrytis, Fusarium)

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How much do the testing requirements vary from state to state? Is there a common set of tests that are always done with every state?

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In Colorado, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment will not yet approve a DNA micro method for testing labs to use.

Edit: By “micro” here, I meant the full micro panel, which includes total yeast and mold.

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In Colorado, if a grow fails a total yeast and mold test, they have 3 options:

  1. Retest - If they pass two retests, they can sell their product normally. If they fail, they must choose one of the other two options.
  2. Remediate - Blast the product into a concentrate, and it will have to be labelled as remediated.
  3. Destroy - Regular waste laws apply.
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Is that a label used internally or is there a way for us as consumers to know if our concentrate is made from remediated buds? Do we have any rights to ask dispensary owners for testing information on the current products on the shelf?

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That’s news to us. We are aware of several labs in CO that are using PCR to test for Salmonella and E.coli.

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They do vary from state to state. However, there are a good amount of states who require testing according to information published in the Cannabis Inflorescence and Leaf monograph published by the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia. That publication lists “limits” for Total Yeast and Mold, Total Aerobic Count, Total Enterobacteriaceae, Total Coliform, E.coli, and Salmonella.

However, it’s interesting to note that that AHP specifically says the values listed in their table "do not typically represent pass or fail criteria. Rather they are recommended levels when plants are produced under normal circumstances and growing conditions.” Still many states ignored that statement and use the values listed as pass or fail criteria.

Other states have set their own standards. The most notable being California, which only tests for pathogenic microbes: Aspergillus flavus, A. fumigatus, A. niger, A. terreus, STEC, Salmonella. It’s our hope that more states will adopt these requirements.

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What does it take for that process to start and get in motion? How do we, as individuals, start making these changes? Letters to a board? Get consumers educated on the concerns or risks?

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That’s an excellent question! In our experience, it’s very hard to get the state regulators to change their requirements. But perhaps if more consumers we aware of the health risks associated with microbial contamination, especially Aspergillus, they would demand that states require testing for it. Aspergillus is a nasty bug. It can cause a potentially fatal respiratory infection. In fact, it’s responsible for the only documented cannabis-related deaths.

It’s especially dangerous to patients with weakened immune systems, such as patients on chemotherapy, but there have been reports of immunocompetent patients getting infections as well. Read more about it on our blog

The public seems pretty well-educated on the risk of pesticides and heavy metals but not microbials. We’d love to get the word out. Open to suggestions.

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Do you have any articles or information we could work with? @Hunter does our article and content syndication work for the site (and he’s awesome at it,) I’d say let’s work on the education aspect of it but more importantly, find ways to engage a more broad audience with that information.

People get lost in the science of this stuff pretty easily in my opinion, the happy medium is presenting things to people so they not only go “oh, that sucks,” but “… wait a minute, this can actually make me sick? I should be pissed about this. I AM pissed about this!”

I run a home growers forum community and I share the articles from here from time to time (and with my Facebook groups,) for guys that are not industry professionals, people still LOVE the articles and it’s information they deem to be better and far more solid than reading some random blog on the internet.

There are plenty of associations and groups in these legal states too, all it takes sometime is for someone to start a campaign and get the masses on board. People need to speak up though!

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Love seeing the forum used to it’s capacity! Stuff like this can absolutely speed up the game and get everyone on the same page.

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@Hunter has been very good to us. He’s posted several of our blogs to the community. I’m not sure if he has posted the Aspergillus blog (https://www.medicinalgenomics.com/aspergillus-dangerous-cannabis-pathogen/). If not, let’s get it up!

You’re right. We need to do a better job spreading the word on this. I’m going to connect with the Director of our CannMed Conference to try and mobilize the speakers and board members we have, and also work the connections we have made with different associations.

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Thanks for the mention @BenMGC! Yes, we reposted that article here.

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Awesome. I thought so. I’m going to get on this and try to come up with some good materials for spreading the word. Maybe start an online petition that we can share to the state regualtors. I’ll post an update in the coming days. Thanks for the encouragement and the recommendations @Jordan. I’d be happy to keep you and @Hunter in the loop if you are interested in helping get the word out.

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Yes, you can use it for Salmonella and STEC, but you can’t use it for total yeast and molds.

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It’s on the product label.

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Is there a particular reason they give for not allowing PCR for TYM?

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