The Case for Certification

Since the February 3, 2015 New York Attorney General’s announcement that his investigation of multiple brands of botanical dietary supplements revealed that the herbs listed on product labels were not present, many retailers and consumers are likely wondering how the products that they routinely sell or purchase would hold up under similar scrutiny. Much has been made of whether DNA-barcoding was the appropriate testing methodology to be used in the Attorney General’s investigation, and consumers may be confused by the fact that the products from one company were later determined to be fully compliant and allowed back on store shelves several weeks after the investigation began.

For aloe vera dietary supplements, consumers and retailers should be aware that a program is available that can help provide the assurance that they are receiving what they are expecting. The International Aloe Science Council (IASC) is a non-profit organization that administers a third-party certification program designed to verify the purity and quality of products produced from aloe vera. This program includes the evaluation of dietary supplement products as well as others such as personal care products and conventional beverages. It provides a guarantee to consumers that aloe vera products they are purchasing really do contain aloe vera.

aloe The IASC program consists of several key components:

  • Inspection of the manufacturing facility against good manufacturing practices (GMPs),
  • Testing of the aloe vera raw material or finished product for acemannan, a marker compound for the identification of aloe vera,
  • Testing for other aloe vera quality parameters per the IASC aloe vera quality standard,
  • Review of label information for compliance with applicable regulatory requirements.

The IASC program is open to all aloe vera product processors and marketers that wish to distinguish themselves in the aloe vera marketplace. Compliant products are allowed to display the IASC certification seal on their labels and marketing materials and products are listed for free public reference on the IASC website ( Products are required to be retested annually, and processing facilities are inspected every three years.

Similar to the botanical products scrutinized by the New York Attorney General, aloe vera is a botanical for which DNA-barcode testing has not yet become a routine analytical method for the identity testing required for dietary supplement ingredients under 21 CFR 111.  The predominant analytical test for aloe vera ingredients is analysis for acemannan, a polysaccharide compound, via nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) testing. FDA routinely accepts this analysis as the basis for aloe vera identify testing during their inspections of aloe vera product manufacturers.

The New York Attorney General’s office is not the only organization doing random testing of retail products.  On February 15, 2015, released a report of its testing of a dozen aloe vera gels, capsules and beverages. Their evaluation utilized the quality criteria specified in the IASC certification program. The two IASC member products that were among those tested were both rated as “approved” in the evaluation.

The next time you are in the market for an aloe vera product, look for one that carries the IASC seal. It’s an easy way for retailers and consumers to identify aloe vera products that have been independently verified for the quality and purity of the aloe vera used in the product.  Consumers can have confidence that a product bearing the seal contains the high quality aloe vera they value in their dietary supplement products.

Jane Wilson is the executive director of the International Aloe Science Council.

Published by WholeFoods Magazine Online, April 22, 2015