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Research has proven that high-quality, contaminant-free cannabis products are more important than ever with the growing reforms and progress surrounding medical and recreational consumption. Marijuana is susceptible to contaminants similar to those that affect consumer food products. The worst offenders you might find in your cannabis are mold, powdery mildew, a fungus called Aspergillus, bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria, salmonella, and yeast. When regulators find toxic products, such as flowers and pre-rolls, on the shelf from lots that have previously met state standards, it is likely because of post-harvest environmental control of the products. Post-harvest remediation is the solution to this serious issue.
Now that cannabis cultivation has become accepted as a legal business across much of the United States, growers have come face-to-face with the consequences of failing state tests for microbial contamination (Most of Colorado’s Failed Cannabis Tests Stem from Microbials, Microbial Testing in Cannabis: Regulatory and Analytical Challenges). In general, about 10% of cannabis fails the microbial contamination test at a dispensary or retail store post-harvest (Post-Harvest Solutions to Microbial Contamination Issues, Cannabis Microbial Remediation: The Best Way To Ensure Safety). Still, it is this 10% that can be the difference between profits and business failure. Losing your profits and reputation to an unseen enemy is a huge disappointment and financial burden.
When you consider the large-scale environmental conditions in which the cannabis is grown, harvested, dried, cured, and stored and compare it to the internal microenvironment of the dispensaries and retail stores, it makes sense that similar environmental conditions would affect the packaged products in the same way. Once the cannabis that has been tested and cleared has been packaged in sealed containers and sent to the dispensaries, additional tests for microbial contamination may show an increase in yeast and mold, even to the extent of causing a failure of the state-mandated requirements for microbial contamination. Products may be uncontaminated at the time of delivery from a supplier, which means the origin of this contamination is likely because conditions within the new environment were favorable to microbial growth.
When faced with post-harvest microbial contamination, you may want to implement post-harvest remediation techniques to ensure that such an event does not occur in the first place and have confidence that your products will pass the state-mandated tests while on the shelves and every time products leave the facility. Implementing post-harvest remediation and having faith that your product will pass strict state-mandated tests consistently is critical and essential to ensure your final product doesn’t risk the health of your consumers and your business. Depending on the processes and products used, decontamination can affect the quality, potency, and taste of cannabis, so it is essential to weigh all the pros and cons involved with any products or processes that come into contact with your cannabis and make sure they won’t compromise on quality or safety standards.
There is an ever-growing need for post-harvest remediation and decontamination technology in the cannabis industry today. Post-harvest is the last chance to treat the product prior to packaging it for consumption. If the packaging process is aseptic, then decontamination at that point is the best option to keep the product clean for the consumer. The best way to address issues with pathogens that may cause post-harvest contamination in any facility is to be proactive rather than reactive. There are a lot of factors that influence a cultivator’s decision to implement decontamination technology, but in the commercial grows, where a test failure could mean removing up to 100+ pounds of cannabis from the supply chain, the need is clear and so it should be with dispensaries and retail outlets as well.
Today, cannabis cultivators and dispensaries are the beneficiaries of decades of technology developments for consumer safety, including those developed for food safety. With cannabis in the mainstream of consumer products, it is time to take advantage of those developments and use them to create safe cannabis that will always pass the state-mandated tests for microbial contamination. These methods eliminate or significantly reduce the microbial contamination on the post-harvest cannabis and help to create the controlled microenvironment inside the dispensary and the final cannabis packaging necessary for ensuring safe cannabis across the supply chain.
Safety Net has developed an “Enhanced Bio-Security Program” from our core experience in the healthcare industry. Our products and processes set a new standard for proactively remedying pathogens such as bacteria, yeast, mildew, mold, and fungus in several agricultural markets. Designed to safeguard your environment beyond the typical approach to cleaning and disinfecting, our proven disinfection products and solutions center on providing long-term prevention results. We take an organic approach, utilizing cost-effective and environmentally friendly products and processes to create sustainable systems and promote healthy local biodiversity.
Remediation Steps for Contaminated Product
With contamination already occurring in existing packaged products, treating this product before bringing anything more into the facility is essential. Unfortunately, there is no quick way to accomplish this without removing the existing product from its packaging and treating the potential source of the problem. This treatment will be a two-step process that will enable you to eradicate the current pathogens on the cannabis product and then prepare the packaging to put the decontaminated product into.
The first step will be to kill the microbes in the post-harvest cannabis already packaged. This disinfection is accomplished using UVC technology like our AUVS UVC Disinfecting Cube. Research has proven that UVC can be very effective on cannabis when appropriately used (Disinfection & Sterilization Effects of UVC for Cannabis, Why UVC For Powdery Mildew And Bud Mold). The AUVS UV Cube is highly effective in disabling or killing microorganisms that may exist in a short 55-second cycle. The main benefits of UVC disinfection and sterilization on cannabis are the process is easy, environmentally friendly, and chemical- free. UVC can offer strong disinfection and sterilization to cannabis in a short time with no adverse effects on the original quality, potency, and taste of your cannabis product. Remove the contaminated cannabis from its packaging and spread it out inside the UVC chamber so that all of the cannabis product can get the full effects of the UVC when processed.
The next step will be to treat the original packaging (inside and outside) with an antimicrobial product like SafetyNet’s Biotrexx 247, which creates an active antimicrobial barrier protecting the packaged product from microbial attack from mold, mildew, fungus and yeast. . Independent microbiological testing has proven the effectiveness of Biotrexx 247 in addition to having EPA Registration and FDA clearance.
Once the packaging has been treated and the cannabis product has been put through a UVC treatment, it is safe to place back into the packaging with the assurance that any further pathogen issues will be eliminated. But are there any gaps in this procedure?
Treat the Cause, Not the Symptoms – Preventative Measures to Stop Future Contamination
Although the elimination of any current contaminated product is the priority, one of the next things to consider in the post-harvest decontamination process is how to kill the microbes in the post-harvest cannabis when it arrives at a facility and before packaging. So often, many things that can create opportunities for post-harvest contamination, such as hygiene management, are overlooked or not considered. Still, these very things could be the start of an even bigger issue with contamination once the product is packaged.
Hygiene management is critical due to contaminants that are introduced from outside sources. There needs to be a focus on high standards for hygiene and cleanliness to keep your facilities pathogen-free and reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Simple things such as hand sanitizing and disinfection of mobile devices can be significant contributors.
Safety Net’s mPulse long-lasting antimicrobial hand sanitizer redefines the hand hygiene market with advanced technology that extends protection. Even though people feel the need to be concerned about hand sanitizing is minimal now that COVID has passed, it is still a concern. It should be addressed, especially in aseptic production environments. If warranted, hand sanitizers at entry points to a facility and throughout the facility would dramatically reduce the possibility of cross- contamination from outside sources.
Cross-contamination can also occur with the very items we don’t think about but are a part of our everyday life, such as mobile devices, watches, hats, and even scarves that have the potential to collect germs and viruses and be carried in and out of a facility. Without realizing it, these items are Petri dishes of germs and viruses and, when used throughout any facility, can unknowingly contribute to the spread of pathogens. Our AUVS UVC Disinfection Cube can easily integrate into any environment. It can provide complete disinfection for any device or article that may move from one place to another as people move in and out of a facility, such as mobile devices, or lose articles of clothing.
Next, it is vital to create the proper microenvironment for the packaged cannabis so that once sealed and made ready for sale; the product can resist all microbial attacks within this enclosed environment. It is crucial to consider the materials and packaging that products will go in, which have the potential to harbor pathogens that lay dormant until they come in contact with something they can infect. Treating all materials with an antimicrobial product like Safety Net’s Biotrexx 247 creates an active antimicrobial barrier, resulting in the highest efficacy against the complete microbial spectrum (odor causing bacteria, fungi (Aspergillus), & spores). The technology behind this product uses a carbon spike along with a positively charged nitrogen molecule so once bonded to the surface, it will attract microbes from the air or surrounding untreated surfaces, where the carbon spike contained within the product can pierce the microbe, and the nitrogen molecule in the product suffocates the microbe with nitrogen (Aspergillus Case Study For California Grow Facility). Independent microbiological testing has proven the effectiveness of Biotrexx 247 in addition to having EPA Registration and FDA clearance.
Although treating all forms of packaging before inserting the product is the first step, treating the entire environment where the product exists with Biotrexx 247 is critical. Much like the hygiene processes recommended, treating the environment as a whole (walls, floors, shelves, etc.) will ensure minimal bio-load, so mitigating the spread of airborne pathogens is easy.
While no system can legally claim that the product is 100% sterile, we believe our methods and products are the most effective means of reducing the microbial bio-burden while maintaining all the original quality, potency, and taste your cannabis has to offer.
About the Author
Jim Harris is Director of Business Development for Safety Net and owner of High Point Mobile Services, amongst other ventures. Jim works to expand Safety Net’s suite of highly effective products into new markets.