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National Reference Laboratories at the BVL

The National Reference Laboratories (NRLs) at the BVL act as an intersection between the European Union Reference Laboratories (cf. Commission Regulation (EC) No 776/2006) and the official control laboratories in Germany. Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 lays down the tasks of the National Reference Laboratories. Article 33 of the Regulation states:

“These national reference laboratories shall:

a) collaborate with the Community reference laboratory in their area of competence;

b) coordinate, for their area of competence, the activities of official laboratories responsible for the analysis of samples in accordance with Article 11;

c) where appropriate, organise comparative tests between the official national laboratories and ensure an appropriate follow-up of such comparative testing;

d) ensure the dissemination to the competent authority and official national laboratories of information that the Community reference laboratory supplies;

e) provide scientific and technical assistance to the competent authority for the implementation of coordinated control plans adopted in accordance with Article 53;

f) 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.”

The analysis of samples for control purposes does not belong to the tasks of the NRLs at the BVL, since this task, due to the federal structure of food control in Germany, is carried out by the responsible authorities of the federal states.

The National Reference Laboratories at the BVL support the quality assurance measures of the control laboratories in order to promote the comparability of the analyses. For this purpose the NRLs provide reference materials, standard substances and descriptions of methods developed at the NRLs. In addition, the NRLs ensure the dissemination of information by organising annual workshops.

The regular organisation of proficiency tests (interlaboratory studies) is another important task of the NRLs. In the framework of these tests, identical sample material is sent to the control laboratories responsible for the respective substance groups and is analysed by the laboratories using their respective routine test methods. The evaluation of the results of these tests shows whether the range of substances to be analysed is covered completely and whether the substances were identified correctly. Moreover the evaluation reveals whether there are significant differences in the results from the participants with regard to the determined concentrations of the analysed substances. The laboratories are informed in detail about their results, giving them the chance, for example, to react to an unsatisfactory result by optimising their test method. This way the BVL contributes to upholding the high quality of official controls.

The BVL was designated as the National Reference Laboratory for the following substance groups:

  • NRL for pharmacologically active substances
  • NRL for genetically modified organisms
  • NRL for pesticide residues (four areas of competence)
  • NRL for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • NRL for heavy metals

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