Allergen Analysis Deemed ‘Proficient’
for Fourth Consecutive Year
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
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
How does proficiency
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
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:
www.fapas.com or e-mail [email protected].