Willow Blog

Kill Step to Cannabis

Taking Consumer Safety Seriously: Adding a Kill – Step to Cannabis Production

In the world of food safety, multiple processes are used to keep consumers safe, but the critical method used by every manufacturer is called a kill-step. The kill-step is the point in the manufacturing or packaging process where food is treated to minimize or remove deadly pathogens – such as harmful bacteria and mold – to make products safe to consume. As the legal cannabis industry grows, it is crucial for cannabis manufacturers to add a kill-step to their production processes to ensure cannabis products are as safe to consume as any other consumable product on the market.

Conventional methods of minimizing foodborne illnesses include cooling, pasteurization, pathogen-killing washes, and irradiation. There’s an important distinction between the processes that destroy contaminants (the kill-steps) and those that simply slow the growth of bacteria. Cooling food, for example, slows the growth of bacteria, but doesn’t kill it, while pasteurization completely destroys bacteria. In cannabis, even though most cultivators use processes akin to cooling food, such as controlling humidity, few have implemented a genuine kill-step.

While some believe that smoking cannabis is sufficient to make it safe for the consumer, this is not the case. Combustion can kill certain ‘growing molds,’ but does not always eliminate dormant spores or other pathogens, like Aspergillus, which can survive at high temperatures. If a patient with a compromised immune system is exposed to these contaminants, it can lead to life-threatening health complications. Contaminated cannabis also produces less-severe but still-concerning side effects like harsher inhalation, allergic reactions, and shorter shelf life. 

In addition to effectively killing mold spores, a cannabis kill-step is the simplest way to ensure products pass state-mandated microbial testing and do not develop mold while stored after passing. Most testing standards permit less than 10,000 CFUs (colony-forming units) of mold per sample, and manufacturers committed to product safety consistently meet this standard and provide a product with longer shelf life. It’s a stopgap against any issues that may have been missed earlier in the production process.

Beyond serving as a quality control measure, implementing a cannabis kill-step creates a huge branding opportunity. It’s a simple way for cannabis companies to cement their reputations as reliable sources of clean product.  The kill-step is a critical, proven way to provide consumers with a preemptive layer of protection that increases the chance for repeat sales and decreases the chance for negative press from frustrated customers. And from a regulatory perspective, it sends a strong message that cultivators are taking consumer safety seriously. All of these factors add up to one simple conclusion: more cultivators need to be investing in a cannabis kill-step.

Willow Industries’ patent-pending technology, the WillowPure system, reliably kills pathogens such as yeast, mold, bacteria, Aspergillus, coliforms, E. Coli and Salmonella. The WillowPure eliminates the risk of reactivation and future growth while protecting the medicinal properties of the cannabis plant. While the WillowPure system can be used retroactively for remediation following a failed test, its real value lies in its use as a proactive kill-step. Willow Industries provides an effective kill-step, delivering a finished product that is safe for consumers. Contact us to find out more.

Willow Industries - November 11, 2019