The analysis of sugar products and associated factory streams requires documented, unambiguous analytical methods that can be used in any sugar laboratory and provide accurate and precise results.  

The development and testing of these methods is the role of the International Commission for Uniform Methods of Sugar Analysis Ltd (ICUMSA). It is the only international organisation involved with the development of analytical methods for use within the sugar industry. ICUMSA methods are recognised by authorities such as the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the International Organization of Legal Metrology, the European Union and the United States Food Chemicals Codex.

Stephen Walford from SMRI is Chairman of ICUMSA’s South African National Committee.

ICUMSA is made up of National Committees from more than twenty member countries, including South Africa. Work within ICUMSA is carried out under various sections, known as Subjects, each supervised by a Referee. New or revised analysis methods are not given automatic approval, but undergo a rigorous approval procedure, progressing from Tentative to Official status. Acceptance will result in the method being published in the ICUMSA Methods Book. Many of the methods within these Subjects form the basis for methods found in the South African Sugar Technologists Association Laboratory Manual for South African Sugar Factories and methods used at the Sugar Milling Research Institute NPC (SMRI) as part of the Institute’s 17025 Accredited Test methods.  

Members of the South African sugar industry have been an integral part of ICUMSA since 1954 when Dr Douwes Dekker (the director) of the then newly-created SMRI attended the ICUMSA meeting held in Paris. Since that time many South African technologists have contributed to ICUMSA. In fact, some of the current ICUMSA methods are based on those developed within the local industry e.g. GS 4/7/8/5-2 (2002) The Determination of Sucrose by Gas Chromatography in Molasses and Factory Products and GS5/7-1 (2011) The Determination of Pol, Brix and Fibre in Cane and Bagasse by the Wet Disintegrator Method with Lead Subacetate. The SMRI is the focal point of ICUMSA activity within the local industry. This is a consequence of its mission to be a world class research institute by providing (amongst others) appropriate analytical services and training of mill laboratory staff, including improvement of analytical quality, within the South and southern African processing industry.

ICUMSA currently meets every two years to review the status of new and tentative methods. The South African National Committee is honoured to be hosting the 31st meeting of ICUMSA at the Marriot Protea Hotel Kruger Gate from the 26-29 August 2018. In addition to the reviewing of the different Subjects, the meeting will include an ICUMSA Method writing instructional workshop and a visit to the Malelane mill.

Further information on the activities of ICUMSA can be found at