The Enterobacteriaceae family, also known as Bile-tolerant gram-negative bacteria, is a large group of bacteria that includes coliform bacteria, E.coli, and Salmonella. In all, the Enterobacteriaceae family includes more than 200 species. While most members of the Enterobacteriaceae family are not pathogenic to humans, they can cause foodborne illness as well as food spoilage.
As a result, Food manufacturers typically test products for Enterobacteriaceae to ensure quality and long shelf life. Many cannabis regulators require cannabis samples pass Enterobacteriaceae testing before they can be sold in dispensaries. The most current version of the Cannabis Inflorescence and Leaf monograph published by the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, which many states use to determine pass or fail criteria for microbial testing, recommends less than 1,000 CFU/g on cannabis plant material and 100 CFU/g on extracts.
Salmonella is a member of the Enterobacteriaceae family, and it is characterized as Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacilli. The CDC estimates that Salmonella causes 1.2 million foodborne illnesses and 450 deaths each year. Young children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems are at most risk. In 1982, there was an infamous Salmonella outbreak in which 85 cases of enteritis caused by Salmonella muenchen were reported from Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, and Alabama. The source of the outbreak was traced back to contaminated cannabis.
When states require Salmonella testing on cannabis it is typically a presence/absence test, which means any detection of Salmonella in the sample will result in a failure.
Coliform bacteria are a sub-family of Enterobacteriaceae, commonly used as an indicator of sanitary quality of foods and water. Coliforms can be found in and on several environments that are common in cannabis production, including water, soil, vegetation. Coliforms are also commonly present in feces. While most coliforms do not cause serious illness, their presence indicates there could other more pathogenic sub-species of fecal origin could be present.
In addition to Enterobacteriaceae, many cannabis regulators require cannabis samples pass Total Coliform testing before they can be sold in dispensaries. The most current version of the Cannabis Inflorescence and Leaf monograph recommends less than 1,000 CFU/g of Coliform on cannabis plant material and less than 100 CFU/g on extracts.
E.coli is a type of coliform bacteria commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms. Most E. coli strains are harmless, but others can cause food poisoning when ingested by humans. E. coli is expelled into the environment within fecal matter.
Most cannabis regulators require cannabis samples be tested for E.coli before they can be sold in dispensaries. E.coli is typically a presence/absence test, which means any detection of E.coli in the sample is a failure. However, Maryland allows 100 CFU/g in cannabis samples.
Shigatoxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC)
As the name suggests, Shigatoxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC), are a type of E. coli bacteria that produce a toxin called Shiga toxin. The most common type of STEC in the United States is E.coli O157. According to the CDC, “when you hear news reports about outbreaks of E. coli infections, they are usually talking about E. coli O157.” The CDC estimates that each year STEC causes 265,000 illness, 3,600 hospitalizations, and 30 deaths in the United States.
States that require STEC testing on cannabis typically make it a presence/absence test, which means any detection of STEC in the sample is a failure.
Note: The level of water activity in any cannabis sample is instrumental to its microbial content. Therefore, the curing process must be both sufficient and thorough. If cannabis samples are fresh, tests for E.coli, Clostridium botulinum, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are required.
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