The Cannabis industry is fast growing and ever changing. Everyone in the industry faces challenges and the most burdensome of all is passing your Compliance test. Compliance tests are conducted differently state to state but all states require some form of Microbial testing. Most states where cannabis is regulated test for specific strains of the microbial aspergillus, a harmful microbe that can infect a consumer’s respiratory system. This is a necessary test to ensure public safety however, due to the strict regulations, many batches fail for aspergillus while the presence of the microbe remains low. There are a few methods that can be used to pasteurize cannabis and destroy aspergillus, such as Radio Frequency, irradiation, and ozone baths.
In our experience with Pasteurization, the gentlest method by far is Radio Frequency Pasteurization. Unlike Ozone, Radio Frequency does not damage terpene profiles or the visual vibrance cannabis is known for. Ozone is used frequently as a deodorizer and therefore removes most of the qualities that make cannabis desirable and sellable. Ozone also does not have the ability to destroy aspergillus past the exterior of the bud. So, if you have aspergillus closer to the stem than the outer layer, Ozone will not be able to effectively treat it. On the other hand, irradiation as a pasteurization process is a step that most states require to be disclosed on the final packaging. Not all states require this label, but it is likely that they will all require it at some point.
The FDA requires nearly all consumables to undergo some type of pasteurization or “kill step”. The kill step is a part of your process that ensures that any microbes that are present within your consumable or raw ingredients are destroyed. Whether that is by heating beyond a survivable threshold or treating with radiation or chemicals a kill step will make your product safer for customer consumption. Implementing a kill step in your cannabis practices does not mean admitting any kind of fault on the growing process, but rather, acknowledging that customer safety takes priority over personal ego.
Because Aspergillus is prevalent in plant and animal ecosystems alike, it can be very hard to prevent and even tougher to eliminate. Aspergillus can make its way into a facility on shoelaces that went through dying leaves or hats that have hit the ground. Preventative measures should be taken whenever possible, such as a thorough decontamination of grow rooms and drying rooms between harvests and sanitizing surfaces as well as hands when handling flower.