Speaking with FoodNavigator, ISC president Larry Fernandez said that the organisation was expanding its membership beyond stevia suppliers, to include food and drink manufacturers, as well as leaf growers.
“Because there is a lot of work to be done on this, people are a lot more supportive of working together,” he said. “…We still want to look at bringing more of the manufacturers in. I see the leaf growers as being a smaller faction, but I also see this as critical to getting more of the manufacturers involved.”
Many end users market their foods and drinks on the reputation of stevia, and Fernandez said this has led the ISC to try and unite the entire supply chain, to become an authoritative industry voice.
“We really feel that ISC can be a bridge between these groups, especially when you get the sustainability and continuity of supply. …It is such an important part of how they are marketing their products,” he said.
With this in mind, the organisation introduced a reference standard initiative – dubbed the Proficiency Testing Programme (PTP) – to improve accuracy in assessing the composition of steviol glycosides in different stevia-derived sweeteners, and to quell any fears that quality could vary depending on the source.
ISC executive director Maria Teresa Scardigli said the association had been testing different companies’ stevia products using its reference benchmark standard for about two years. While the results from companies’ own testing standards were generally in line with the PTP, there were some inaccuracies.
“So in order to reduce the inaccuracies we have switched to one reference standard,” she said. “Now that they all have the same standards, if there are differences, then it is their methods of measuring steviol glycosides that will need to improve.”