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Rising Above: Food Safety In The Cannabis Industry

For the food industry, success is defined by a commitment to food safety, which also applies to those specializing in cannabis food products. However, the lack of federal regulations for edibles can put cannabis companies at a higher risk of unknowingly producing unsafe products. Because many people rely on cannabis for medicinal purposes, it is especially crucial that companies take every effort to provide safe and consistent products to their patients.

As it stands, many cannabis products and manufacturers are not required to pass a government safety audit. Dispensary owners are often left to vet manufacturers and their safety standards on their own. In the future, local public health departments are expected to regulate cannabis products. For now, manufacturers must be proactive in learning local, state, and federal health regulations and hiring food safety professionals to assist them in structuring a HACCP-based program. This professional can also help prevent or navigate potential recalls.

Cannabis Contamination

When we think of food contamination, we picture the usual culprits: Listeria, Salmonella, E. Coli, Norovirus, and Hepatitis A. What we don’t often consider are these same risks attributed to cannabis products on top of hazards such as pesticides and mycotoxins (from mold). Many of these issues can be prevented by implementing solid preventive measures in conjunction with third-party testing.

In a recent study, 20 randomly selected samples in California were all found to have detectable levels of microbial contamination. Many also contained significant pathogenic microorganism contamination. The variety of potentially harmful biological hazards included:

  • Klebsiella
  • Enterobacteria such as E. coli
  • Acinetobacter
  • Aspergillus
  • Mycotoxin/Aflatoxin

Cannabis oil, in particular, is one product that can be potentially hazardous if proper spore-killing heat procedures or temperature-controlled storage conditions aren’t met. Many Colorado counties now require a shelf stability confirmation to ensure that cannabis oil has been properly heated before being sold at room temperature. Any products that cannot be verified are required by the health department to be refrigerated and labeled.

Cannabis Product Safety

Standard Operating Procedure development can be challenging, but it’s imperative for all food companies.

Cannabis food SOPs should include sanitation protocols and hand-washing requirements, as well as steps to prevent cross-contamination to eliminate the risk of food-borne illness. Any edible kitchen should include smooth, easy-to-clean surfaces, commercial rated equipment, adequate hot water, and proper chemical storage.

Though the cannabis industry is often viewed as “the wild west”, with the help of a food safety professional, manufacturers can take confidence in the safety of their products. It’s clear that edibles are here to stay, making it important for all cannabis food manufacturers to follow food safety standards to protect their customers and provide the best quality product.

Elevate your cannabis business with the help of Avert Food Safety Advisors. Our team of trained consultants have hands-on experience in the cannabis trade and the knowledge to protect your brand. In a vastly competitive and widely unregulated industry, Avert can help you stand out to your customers as a company that prioritizes safety standards and high-quality products.

Your company’s reputation and customer base should always be top priority. Let Avert FSA help you safeguard your business and protect your brand. Call us today at 702-706-6574 or visit our website.


Matthew McClure provides sound strategies that instill cost-effective methods for building robust food safety, operational and quality assurance programs. Along with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Microbiology from The University of Akron and an MBA in Finance from Louisiana State University, Matthew brings over 20 years of experience in the food safety industry to AVERT Food Safety Advisors. His knowledge spans many areas including FDA food processing facilities, USDA meat and poultry plants, dietary supplement manufacturers, retail, cannabis manufacturing, and food service operations.

Contact us for more information: | Tel: +1 702.706.6574

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