All About Aloe: The International Aloe Science Council

All About Aloe: The International Aloe Science Council

In this month’s blog post I want to introduce our readers to the International Aloe Science Council (IASC).  I have talked briefly about this organisation in previous posts and it is mentioned on some of our product pages; however, I thought it was high time I put it in the spotlight and dedicated an entire piece to it!

The International Aloe Science Council has been advocating for the aloe vera industry and the science of the aloe plant for over 40 years.  Founded in 1980 as the National Aloe Science Council, its aim was to establish quality standards and codes of best practice across the aloe business community.  It now has international reach, with members on five continents who share a commitment to using authentic, high-quality aloe vera and promoting regulatory compliance.  Aloe growers, processors, finished goods manufacturers, product distributors, testing laboratories, scientists and more are eligible to join the organisation. 

The IASC was formed to address widespread abuse in the representation of aloe vera at all levels of the industry.  Adulteration and mislabelling of raw ingredients and finished products containing aloe were prevalent – and indeed still are.  Since 2016 there have been several class action lawsuits brought against retailers whose products were found to contain no trace of acemannan, the polysaccharide whose presence is used to authenticate aloe vera.  Concerned about unscrupulous parties taking advantage of consumers, industry leaders formed IASC as a not-for-profit entity and designed a rigorous certification program to provide a guarantee of quality for aloe ingredients and products. 

Both facilities and products may be certified by the IASC.  A facility is a place where aloe vera leaves are processed into some kind of aloe vera ingredient and/or finished product.  A product can be any raw ingredient, dietary supplement, drink, or skincare product that purports to contain aloe vera.  To qualify, an aloe processing facility must submit its premises and procedures to inspection and audit.  Products must either have their manufacture process observed from start to finish by an auditor, or be verified as having been manufactured at a certified facility.  They must be tested for aloe vera content and their labels must be reviewed to ensure they adhere to the IASC’s labelling policy.  Facility recertification must occur every three years, while product certification has to be renewed annually.  It is a thorough and demanding process, both practically and financially.  Each certification and recertification incurs substantial fees to cover the costs of auditor travel and laboratory tests. 

Once certified, aloe processing facilities and products may display the IASC seal.  Companies who use the IASC Certification Seal on their products or in their literature are assuring their customers that:

  • Products are truthfully labelled.
  • Aloe vera is genuinely present in the product, with sufficient levels of aloe solids and acemannan.
  • Anthraquinones, including aloin, have been removed.  Aloin may not be present at more than 10 parts per million. 
  • Maltodextrin, where present, has been declared on the label.
  • Products have been subject to, and have passed, microbiological testing. 

As well as initial tests, IASC certified finished products might also be subject to random spot tests.  Each month, randomised testing is conducted to ensure the overall sanctity and integrity of the certification programme.  If a product fails, it is given the opportunity for a retest, an investigation and corrective action, but ultimately it may lose its IASC certified status and be obliged to remove the seal from its label and marketing material.  It is worth noting that when samples are submitted to laboratories for IASC tests, all company information is redacted in order that no company shall be given any advantage on the basis of its size or reputation.  

Stringent standards are not only applied to IASC certified facilities and products; all IASC members must adhere to the organisation’s bylaws and strict code of ethics too.  Amongst other things, these commit members to:

  • Conduct all business transactions in a fair and truthful manner.
  • Refrain from engaging in false or misleading advertising.
  • Refrain from making unlawful claims about products’ medicinal properties either on labels on in marketing materials.
  • Refrain from engaging in any kind of anti-competition behaviour, including price fixing and boycotting agreements.
  • Conduct all business legally and in a way that honours the values of the International Aloe Science Council.
  • Conduct all business in a way that does not prejudice the reputation or welfare of the International Aloe Science Council.

Any member who breaches the IASC’s code of ethics risks not only banishment from the organisation, but also being reported to any relevant regulatory authorities. 

If you have read my previous blog post about anthraquinones, you will know that any aloe vera supplement suitable for medium or long-term use should have had anthraquinones, including aloin and aloe emodin, removed.  If you have also read the one about polysaccharides, you will further know that high-quality aloe vera products will contain proper amounts of acemannan.  It is acemannan that is thought to be aloe’s most bioactive constituent and, as mentioned above, the IASC will not even recognise as aloe vera products whose acemannan levels do not meet minimum thresholds.  The surest way to know if a product meets the criteria for having had aloin removed and containing acceptable levels of acemannan is to look for the IASC seal on its packaging.

At this point, you’re probably expecting me to tell you that all of Tiny Pioneer’s aloe vera products are IASC certified.  Surely the whole point of this post is to blow our own trumpet and give our customers peace of mind that we’re fully accredited?  Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that, because it isn’t true!  As I said above, it is very costly to have products certified by the International Aloe Science Council.  It would be a lovely thing to have done one day, but it’s definitely well out of our reach at the moment! 

What I can tell you is that we only use IASC-certified aloe vera in our aloe vera products.  That doesn’t give us the right to display the seal on our packaging without having the products themselves certified, but it does give us confidence in their quality.  To be extra sure of their potency and purity, I personally sent them for industry-recognised tests at a third-party laboratory before I put them on sale.  To my relief, all the products were found to have high levels of acemannan (see the individual product pages) and did not contain adulterants.  In fact the quality was complimented by the lab owner, who told us that we had some nice aloe there!    

This blog post then is not to tell you about our wonderful IASC-certified aloe vera products, because although I think they are wonderful, they’re definitely not certified!  Rather, it is to recognise the IASC for the great work that it carries out on a not-for-profit basis on behalf of the aloe vera industry.  As well as helping to create common standards, terminologies and codes of best practice within the sector, it also engages with government agencies and scientific organisations to further advocate for this marvellous little herb.  The IASC has been very generous in answering my aloe vera related questions over the last few years and I would like to thank them for the work they do to make the industry a more ethical place.  I extend my particular thanks to Jane, who has fact-checked this blog post!  Thank you, Jane! 

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