Staphylococcal Enterotoxin Testing for Cannabis

Learn about Staphylococcal enterotoxin, contamination, and how testing is essential to protecting consumer health and safety.

Staphylococcal Enterotoxin Testing for Cannabis

There are multiple examples of bacteria that in small amounts have less risk to human health and safety, and in larger quantities pose high risks. One such example is Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), common bacteria found in humans and animals. At high concentrations, S. aureus produce an enterotoxin (SE) that poses a high risk to consumer health and safety.

The Disease

S. aureus grows over a wide range of temperatures and pH, allowing the bacteria to grow in all types of cannabis products including an assortment of edibles. The amount of toxin needed to cause disease is less than 1 μg which is equal to one millionth of a gram. Additional care is needed to prevent S. aureus in your operations and your products.

Staphylococcal diseases are acquired from eating SE contaminated products and are the second most reported type of food-borne diseases. The high incidence of Staphylococcal food poisoning is due to the insufficient decontamination of originally contaminated product sources1 or its contamination during preparation and handling by individuals who are carriers of the organism. Typical symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are side effects of a bacterial infection from SE. When inhaled into the lungs, SE generally causes a dry cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain. In severe cases, there may be a buildup of fluid in the lungs which can become fatal. These toxins are connected to significant human diseases including toxic shock syndrome and other serious diseases. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for Staphylococcal diseases.

A Great Risk

S. aureus is a risk to the cannabis industry and consumers. Due to the therapeutic properties of cannabis for both adult-use and medicinal, the risk for consequences increases with the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems who are more susceptible to a risk of adverse health effects. This highlights the critical nature of microbial testing regulations and testing solutions with robust and reliable science.

Staphylococcal enterotoxin is becoming a greater focus of cannabis microbiology and therefore is more frequently tested in the cannabis industry. Many states within the United States require S. aureus testing or both Staphylococcal enterotoxin and S. aureus testing to further limit the risks to consumers and safety. Other states need to add SE to the cannabis microbial risks to consider to further mitigate risks to consumers, the industry, and brands. Regardless of the state regulations, proactively assessing and mitigating your environment may improve the quality and safety of your cannabis and cannabis products.


  1. Scherrer D., Corti S., Muehlherr J.E., Zweifel C., Stephan R. Phenotypic and Genotypic Characteristics of Staphylococcus aureus Isolates From Raw Bulk-Tank Milk Samples of Goats and Sheep. Vet. Microbiol. 2004;101:101–107.