UK National Reference Laboratory (NRL)
for monitoring bacteriological and viral contamination of bivalve molluscs
Providing information and guidance on public health related monitoring of bivalve shellfish
A network of reference laboratories for monitoring bacteriological and viral contamination of bivalve molluscs (such as oysters, mussels, cockles and clams) was established following a number of shellfish-related food-poisoning incidents in EU member states.
Public health controls on the commercial production of shellfish for human consumption within the European Union (EU) are determined by the EU Food Hygiene Regulations. A competent authority in each EU member state is responsible for designating a national reference laboratory (NRL), which:
- co-ordinates the activities of other national testing laboratories in that state
- represents the views of the state's laboratories at the European level.
Information on the designation and responsibilities of reference laboratories is contained within Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004.
In the UK, the competent authority responsible for the implementation of the EU Regulations is the Food Standards Agency (FSA). That agency, in turn, has designated Cefas' Weymouth laboratory as the NRL for the UK.
Article 33 of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 stipulates that NRLs will:
- collaborate with the Community reference laboratory (CRL) in their area of competence
- co-ordinate, for their area of competence, the activities of official laboratories responsible for the analysis of samples, in accordance with Article 11
- organise, where appropriate, comparative tests between the official national laboratories and ensure an appropriate follow-up of such comparative testing
- disseminate information that the CRL supplies to the competent authority and official national laboratories
- provide to the competent authority scientific and technical assistance that helps to implement co-ordinated control plans, adopted in accordance with Article 53
- be responsible for carrying out other specific duties provided for in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 62(3), without prejudice to existing additional national duties
- Article 11 details the methods of sampling and analysis, Article 53 gives further details regarding control plans, and Article 62(3) defines the rules for committees.