See all issues here

FACTS Allergen Analysis Deemed ‘Proficient’
for Fourth Consecutive Year

January 2013

Laboratories that generate results to ensure compliance with product specifications may receive the greatest scrutiny, often being confronted by production management who are striving to maximize outputs, or who are limited by product quality and availability. In the case where food production facilities are used for the manufacture of a diverse range of products, or when complex processing steps are followed, there are multiple reasons why the status of the raw materials going into a process will not correspond with that of the finished product coming out of the process. Thus, questions are particularly raised when the results obtained for a given sample differ from those expected. It is essential that food testing laboratories have systems in place to demonstrate their capabilities in their specific fields of analysis. While basic quality control programmes, technician training and laboratory audits build the foundation for reliable test results, an independent means of demonstrating laboratory competence is often required to assure confidence in the results being generated.

What is proficiency testing?

Proficiency testing is an effective tool that can be utilised to provide objective evidence that a laboratory’s equipment, methods and technicians are capable of producing accurate and precise results for a given analytical test procedure. It is also a requirement for compliance with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 17025 laboratory management standard that a laboratory participates in proficiency testing for all types of analyses undertaken in that laboratory, where these exist.

Proficiency’ is defined as ‘skilfulness in the command of fundamentals deriving from practice and familiarity'.
Proficiency testing’ is defined as ‘the use of inter-laboratory comparisons of results from a number of laboratories to determine laboratory testing performance'.

How does proficiency testing work?

Proficiency testing involves a group of laboratories or analysts performing the same analyses on a sample originating from the same source, the results from which are then statistically analysed by an outside organization and are compared among participating organisations to determine proficiency. Key requirements of such comparisons are that the samples are stable, homogenous and appropriate to test, generally comprising dried products spiked with a specific analyte, which are then tested by whatever means the laboratory currently employs. Consideration is also given to differences in the methodologies used since this is a means of variability that will affect the outcome of proficiency testing results. Results are compared with the consensus of the group and Z-scores are typically provided within a confidential test report, along with a simple ‘acceptable’ or ‘non-acceptable’ designation for the relevant results. Z-scores are values given to a laboratory based on how its results compare to the ‘true’ result calculated from the average of all results. The greater the difference between the reported result and the assigned true result, the greater is the Z-score. In general, Z-scores between -2 and +2 are considered satisfactory, while lower or higher values are questionable.

FACTS and FAPAS proficiency testing scheme

The FACTS laboratory has been conducting proficiency testing for allergen detection and quantification with the international external body – Food Analysis Performance Assessment Scheme (FAPAS®) – for over three years. FAPAS is the largest, most comprehensive analytical chemistry proficiency testing scheme operating within the food sector, with over 2000 participants in more than 100 countries. Among the allergens tested to date by FACTS through the proficiency scheme are egg, milk, casein, whey (ß-lactoglobulin), soya and gluten. Click here for the list of results. FACTS is proud to state that our laboratory has been deemed proficient in detecting and quantifying the levels of all of the aforementioned analytes, which has provided us with scientifically-robust evidence that we are competent in delivering the accurate and reliable test results that our food-industry clients demand.

More about FAPAS…

FAPAS is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and complies with the requirements of the International Standard ISO/IEC 17043:2010. FAPAS (and other proficiency testing schemes) do not award accreditation. Rather, the results of proficiency testing are used by laboratory accreditation bodies as part of the assessment of a laboratory’s ability to perform an analytical test for which accreditation is required. Apart from allergen proficiency testing, the FAPAS scheme also includes proficiency testing for various other analytes in foods and beverages, including nutritional components, contaminants, food additives, pesticides, veterinary drug residues, authenticity and migration from packaging. For more information on proficiency testing and FAPAS, please visit: or e-mail [email protected].