Participation in relevant proficiency testing is an essential part of a laboratory's quality assurance system. UK laboratories undertaking the microbiological examination of official control samples of bivalve molluscs are expected to take part in an appropriate external quality assessment (EQA) scheme as well as any proficiency testing that the NRL may provide.
Shellfish EQA scheme
A specialised EQA scheme is available for laboratories that examine bivalve molluscs and other shellfish for classification of shellfish harvesting areas and end-product testing.
The scheme is run by Public Health England (PHE) in conjunction with expert advice from Cefas. The scheme covers the microbiological requirements for bivalve molluscs and other shellfish laid down by the EU Food Hygiene Regulations: i.e. the enumeration of Escherichia coli and detection of Salmonella spp.
Laboratories that examine bivalve molluscs and other shellfish will benefit from participation, and the scheme is of paramount importance for laboratories seeking accreditation. All laboratories in the UK testing official control samples of bivalves (including those taken for classification purposes) are required to participate in the scheme; and samples are also sent to a number of laboratories in the rest of Europe and beyond.
The NRL has collaborated with PHE and its predecessor organisations on the development of the shellfish scheme and recognises it as an appropriate EQA scheme for laboratories undertaking the microbiological examination of shellfish.
For further information:
Food and Environmental Proficiency Testing Unit (FEPTU)
Public Health England
61 Colindale Avenue,
London, NW9 5EQ, UK.
Fax: +44 (0) 20 8200 8264
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8327 7119
PHE shellfish EQA scheme
NRL proficiency test distributions
The shellfish EQA scheme is based on the use of artificial samples. The NRL supplements the scheme by distributing additional proficiency-test material in the form of either whole shellfish or shellfish homogenates. Distributions are usually undertaken annually. Laboratories that are part of the NRL network will be contacted prior to each distribution and will be expected to participate.
Advice and guidance in Proficiency testing and EQA schemes
The NRL has provided a trouble shooting guide to assist participants who are experiencing problems with the Proficiency testing or EQA scheme. This information can be found here.