New method rapidly detects bacteria in cannabis-infused foods

Hygiena, a global leader in food and environmental safety testing technology, announced a new method for rapid detection of potential bacterial pathogens in cannabis-infused cookies and cannabis flowers, without interference from existing, harmless microbes, based on its MicroSnap™ bioluminescence technology. The company announced its study at the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) in Louisville, Kentucky.

Hygiena’s study showed that the MicroSnap method could detect Enterobacter, Coliform and Total Viable Count bacteria in five hours in spiked samples of cannabis flowers and infused edible cookies. Cannabis has a diverse microbiome of beneficial microbes that do not harm humans, making it necessary to determine minimum threshold values that indicate safety.

In Hygiena’s study, the lowest concentration of experimentally inoculated bacteria in cannabis-infused suspensions, which varied depending upon target bacteria and sample types, was detected in eight hours. The study shows that MicroSnap bioluminescence can provide a significant measure of safety testing in the growing Cannabis-infused food market, and legalization in certain US states and countries worldwide has led to a need for more rapid testing of products.

“Our study shows that rapid microbiological methods can be successfully applied to the growing cannabis food industry,” said Brandon Katz, research scientist at Hygiena. “We are excited to be able to announce these positive findings and provide an easy technological solution to reducing contamination hazards in cannabis processing.”

MicroSnap tests use a unique bioluminescence reaction that generates light when enzymes characteristic of the target bacteria react with specific molecules in the test. Light reactions are then quantified as relative light units (RLUs), which can determine any possible contamination over a threshold value determined by the tested substances. Thresholds were set using the background signal average and three times standard deviations.

  • For Coliform—the lowest concentration of potential pathogens was detected in eight hours. The lowest inoculum for cannabis flower and edible product was detected after just 5 and 6 hours. RLU thresholds of positive results ranged from 8 to 250 RLUs.
  • For Enterobacter—detection in all flower strains occurred within 8-hour and as early as the 5th hour. RLU thresholds for all strains were >2 RLUs.
  • For Total Viable Count--detection occurred within 8 hours for all three strains. The lowest bacterial concentration with edible was detected in 7 hours. RLU thresholds were >8 RLU for strain 1 and >3 RLU for the other two strains and the edible.

Cannabis is rapidly expanding as an ingredient in a variety of foods, including baked goods, oils, drinks, and butter. While some states have enacted safety regulations and the US FDA has begun to regulate hemp-related products for safety, cannabis companies run higher risks of producing contaminated and unsafe products. Hygiena’s study shows how a cannabis food manufacturer could use MicroSnap to first set RLU threshold levels for its products and tests, and then detect any bacterial contamination that produces RLUs in excess of those thresholds.

The study is available from the IAFP website here.

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