What You Need to Know About Certificates of Analysis

Certificates of Analysis (COAs) relay test data from the laboratory to the organization that submitted the sample. The information contained within a COA helps our partners make wise decisions about the suitability of their products according to their quality goals and objectives. Certificates come in many formats, such as a report narrative, a table, or graphically using bar graphs or charts. Regardless of COA format, there are some essential characteristics to look for when examining a COA from a 3rd party lab, namely accreditations and report clarity.

Certificates of Analysis Should be Easily Understood

A certificate of analysis should be easy to understand, and it should not be confusing or easily misinterpreted. Analytical Resource Lab's certificates contain information about the submitting organization, sample information, analyses performed, specifications for each analysis, minimum detection limits for each analyte, the result, and units of measurement. Additionally, the COA contains ARL's accreditation status and the individual's signature who reviewed and approved the certificate. Clear and concise COAs help our partners make efficient decisions with confidence.

Laboratory Accreditation Is Essential

Knowing that your laboratory partner is accredited is essential. Accredited labs undergo frequent 3rd party audits from qualified accessors ensuring compliance to quality standards such as ISO/IEC 17025:2017. Some of these accreditation programs include International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP), and National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP). A laboratory that holds accreditations to one or more of these programs will note this on their COA in the form of an accreditation number, accreditation symbol, or a statement of accreditation. These marks denote that an unbiased 3rd party has vetted the laboratory.

How to Read an ARL Certificate of Analysis (COA)

Sample COA

ARL Sample COA


  1. ARL COAs always come with a QR code on the top right corner. Scan the code to see and download the PDF online.
  2. The Analysis column shows the individual analyses for a product sample. An underlined analysis indicates a testing package.
  3. The method column has the internal SOP number. SOP names can be proprietary to ARL or USP/AOAC standards.
  4. Microbiological testing uses two key metrics: Minimum Detection Limit (MDL) and Limit of Quantification (LOQ). The MDL signifies the lowest level of microbial growth that can be reliably detected. If a sample result is reported as “None Detected,” it implies that any potential growth falls below this limit. Analytical chemistry testing, on the other hand, focuses on the LOQ. This represents the minimum level of the target analyte (the substance being measured) that can be accurately quantified. When a result is reported as “less than LOQ,” it indicates that any detected amount of the analyte is too small to determine a precise value.
  5. This portion is reserved for additional notes on a COA, which can also include notes from the partner.
  6. Specifications are provided by our partners, if there is none provided the specs will be listed as "Record Only."
  7. Unit of Measurement (UOM) is the unit being used to report the sample, and can be specified on the Sample Submission Form or by email. If none is specified, the analyte will be reported in its default UOM.

Analytical Resource Laboratory's facilities across the USA hold an ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accreditation through an ILAC:MRA accrediting body.

These accreditations, along with our easy-to-read and interpret COAs, will help provide you the confidence necessary to make better and faster decisions regarding your dietary supplement, food, drug, or cosmetic product.

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