Have you ever questioned what goes into the testing of kratom, or why it’s so important to find a reputable vendor? Why simply purchasing the herb from a local head shop may not be the wisest choice, and why? While the answer is more complex than one might realize, our goal in this article is to break it down into layman’s terms, so that you will feel confident with your next purchase! Knowledge truly is power, and at Top Extracts your safety and confidence is of the utmost importance.
In order to give you the best information possible, Top Extracts interviewed a laboratory that we believe goes above and beyond when it comes to testing the purity and any potential contaminants that can be found in kratom.
Jim Sourek, owner and founder of Top Extracts, does not take this process lightly, and did his due diligence in order to find who he believes is delivering the best kratom testing in the industry; Analytical Resource Laboratories (ARL).
The lab, whose flagship is located in Lehi, Utah, sat down with Top Extracts to explain what the process is like, and why it’s pivotal that all kratom consumers realize the importance. Not only is it important for consumers, but for the kratom industry as a whole. It is literally at the forefront of the herb’s legality.
“When I was in Utah for the American Kratom Association mini-summit discussing Kratom policies and how us as suppliers can contribute to making sure Kratom stays legal in every state, I had the opportunity to tour ARL, along with other leaders in the Kratom industry,” Sourek stated. “The tour was informative and the lab is beyond professional and most importantly, they are accredited. This is important to me and the industry because it shows that this lab has had third parties approving their processes and methods.”
This is why we’re sharing the interview with you. Top Extracts spoke with three key players at ARL; Matt Lewis, CEO and Founder, Dylan Kimball, Laboratory Manager; and Lance Pyper, Director of Strategic Partnerships. Their story shows just how much goes into becoming a trustful, ethical lab, and why it’s absolutely crucial for any kratom consumer to do their homework when choosing a vendor.
Where It All Began
Lewis started the company 20 years ago after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology. At the time, he was working for a liquid manufacturing company as a quality manager. “I started this company because I knew there was an opportunity to do one very specific type of test in the industry…tests were being sent out on a weekly basis.” Lewis knew this was something he wanted to pursue and asked his manager if he would be open to him starting a side business, to take the tests and offer the services at a reduced rate. “I knew I could provide high quality because that’s what my research and schooling was all about,” Lewis told Top Extracts. The company was open to it, and so he started the lab “literally in the basement of a home.” Within a month, the entrepreneur had picked up five additional customers and knew he “needed to pursue it.” He then left his manufacturing job to work on the new endeavor full-time. This is how ARL was born.
Soon after, one of Lewis’ customers offered for him to use their company lab space they had available, but that wasn’t being used by any personnel. He used this lab space for about 10 years. Early on, for about the first five years, he focused on only microbiology testing.
Going into the next five years, he dabbled into some chemistry testing as well. Over the last 10 years, they have become a “full service microbiological and chemical testing lab servicing primarily the dietary supplement and food industry.” Additionally, they provide testing for cosmetics, and most recently pharmaceuticals. They’re in the beginning stages of testing medical devices as well.
“We do any type of testing that you might find on a nutritional label; so calories, carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and so forth,” Lewis said of his largest customer base. “And we do a lot of kratom testing.”
In addition to the lab in Lehi, ARL also has locations in Tempe, AZ., Tampa, FL., and St. George, UT. They also have plans to expand throughout the country in the coming years.
How Kratom Testing Came Into the Mix
When asked if they heard about kratom before the AKA conference, Lewis said it “had been buzzing around the industry for awhile.” Pyper was instrumental in the world of kratom testing. About four months before the conference, he did a lot of research on the herb before performing his own testing, followed by validation on that testing.
“So when the conference happened, we felt like we had a really good handle on it [the kratom industry] already,” Lewis stated. “And a good head start on the rest of the lab industry, as far as testing and having validated methods. As well as understanding the customer base, the business model, and the science behind the product itself.”
According to Lewis:
The conference was a great opportunity for us to be introduced to a lot of kratom companies, and to be a part of the solution…in helping to promote and to stabilize the safety of these particular product offerings.
Testing Kratom for Contaminants, & How It’s Revolutionizing the Industry
What contaminants are found in kratom, and why is it so important to purchase from a vendor who gets quality testing done on each and every batch? You may be surprised at what the lab found out.
According to Lewis, the major contaminants of concern are the number of bioburdens, especially initially, discovered upon testing batches of kratom. Bioburdens, according to sciencedirect.com, is defined as “the number of microorganisms on a surface or within a liquid.”
“The one thing we noticed right off the bat was that there was a huge amount of bioburden in these products,” Lewis told Top Extracts. “The bacterial loads were just astronomical. A lot of coliforms, and it seemed like we had a lot of E. Coli and pathogens as well. The bioburden count is quite high. And that took us a little bit to adjust our methods so we could test it once instead of testing it three times.”
The findings are helping to change the ways that kratom is harvested, and is having a huge impact on the industry as a whole. Lewis continued:
The data we have provided has helped the industry to go back to the farms, where they’re harvesting the leaves. And to ask themselves; ‘are you harvesting it next to a swine pit? Do you have pigs and horses walking the land where you’re drying the leaves?’ So they’re going back and trying to solve that from the root source rather than treat after it’s already been put into a powder blend. I think that’s where a lot of companies have really become aware of the issue and are looking at solutions to it from the beginning.
The Process to Becoming Accredited: All Labs Are Not Created Equal
Not only is a lab becoming accredited a lengthy process, it’s also never-ending. What goes into becoming accredited shows both the integrity and ethics of a company, with ARL being no exception.
The company is Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) licensed, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) accredited, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registered, and Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) compliant. To keep up with each is a complex process that takes perseverance and dedication. According to Kimball, each one of those entities “has different regulatory compliance issues, whether that’s for the actual scientific validity of the testing, for the hiring or management of the personnel, or the cleanliness of the laboratories.” He continued:
The integrity of our data is also looked at, how we store the raw data files goes into all of this. Different accrediting bodies care differently about different parts. It’s a major challenge and opportunity for us to meet those goals, and to be able to show our clients and our potential partners out there. We take this very seriously, and we’ve been audited by numerous third-party companies to meet different criteria and to show we’re up to par and we’re not messing around.
Why are these accreditations so instrumentally important when testing kratom? As it turns out, not all labs are created equal when testing the herb. “There are a lot of labs out there who are willing to test kratom, but don’t have the expertise,” Lewis explained. “And they haven’t put the time, the resources, and the money into validating their methods. So their objective is to just make money. And it’s disturbing to us…because it does take real work and real expertise to provide meaningful data.”
What Does the Data From Testing Kratom Reveal?
Lewis explained to Top Extracts that the data collected via testing in the kratom industry “helps them to understand what the different alkaloids are.” He stated:
There are varying alkaloids in kratom. And a lot of our customers want to know what that ratio is, from one alkaloid to the other. And they’re legitimately trying to figure out the hallucinogenic property of the kratom, opposed to the health benefit of the kratom. And how can they produce…or what season is the best to harvest the kratom so they can get the right alkaloid that they’re looking for.
Kimball reinforced Lewis’ statement, adding that “the alkaloid profile is very indicative of cost versus benefit…of hallucinogenic properties versus health benefits.” The different ratios and percentages of alkaloids in the herb “are indicative of where it was harvested, when it was harvested, and potential health benefits as well.” Kimball continued:
Being sure you’re testing each of those [batches] accurately, while doing your due diligence and making sure you’re doing appropriate quality standards and checks…that all goes into accreditation. When we test a product, for any unknown sample, we test a known sample alongside it. So that we know, for example, with mitragynine (the primary alkaloid of kratom)…if we don’t get, just as an example, 2%, we know something went wrong. We can then go back and look at our calculations, our preparations, and make sure that all of the standards and solvents we used were prepped appropriately…not past their expiration dates or other various things that go into it. Any test is going to spit out a number, but how do you know you can trust that number is a big part of getting accredited by ISO, the FDA, or any of those bodies.
In an industry that is constantly battling with legislation regarding kratom’s legality, it is absolutely crucial to have these methods in place. “They’re legitimizing this industry by doing the testing,” Pyper stated.
Becoming an accredited lab takes “about a year,” according to Lewis. “They come in and audit every single year again, and it really never ends.”
Why It’s Crucial to Purchase From a Vendor Using an Accredited Lab
Now that you have knowledge about the basics of becoming accredited, let’s talk about exactly why it’s so important when choosing a kratom vendor.
“We feel it’s paramount to give people accurate and validated data,” Lewis told Top Extracts. “I know from the AKA’s perspective, this is their absolute and primary intent…to legitimize the industry by providing good data. We would caution any importers or distributors of the product from using just any lab without investigating how good they are, and what they can actually do. And that’s really determined by the accreditations, because those accrediting bodies are not easy to pass.”
Sourek agreed that it’s paramount for all vendors to be following suit in testing only through accredited labs:
All suppliers of any digestible products should be testing those products. But its particularly important for kratom suppliers because in the regions in which it’s grown, there can be little control over environmental factors and a limited amount of FDA oversite.
Suppliers who are following CGMP protocols should take every precaution possible to ensure that they are testing to a written procedural testing plan and that they have properly vetted the lab that they have chosen to verify their products. The best way to verify a lab is to review there accreditation.
As you can see, it isn’t easy to become accredited, and the ongoing process requires an extreme amount of time and dedication. When he was choosing a lab to test Top Extracts’ kratom supply, Sourek knew he had to find the best laboratory possible, and found that in ARL.
“I really liked that they [ARL] weren’t shy about talking about their accreditations, nor were the hesitant to work with Kratom suppliers,” Sourek stated.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.