NATA News Archive
- Published: 25 September 2014
The National Residue Survey (NRS) is a unit within the Exports Division of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture. NRS is responsible for delivering national residue monitoring programs for participating industries. For meat exports, NRS is accountable to the Department of Agriculture (the “competent authority”) for delivering the national residue monitoring plan, in order to maintain export markets.
NRS annually tests thousands of meat and grain samples and hundreds of horticultural samples. All testing is conducted by commercial analytical laboratories which have been selected through an open, competitive Australian Government tendering process, on the basis of their performance in NRS proficiency testing programs, appropriateness of test method and overall value for money.
The main role of the Residue Chemistry and Laboratory Performance Evaluation (RC-LPE) Section of NRS is to procure laboratory services and to monitor laboratory proficiency. Laboratory proficiency is monitored by NRS in a number of ways:
- Contract laboratories must demonstrate satisfactory performance in NRS proficiency testing (PT) programs to be eligible to tender, but must also maintain satisfactory performance throughout the contract term. While participation in NRS PT is open to all interested laboratories, operational constraints permitting, it is compulsory for laboratories holding or wishing to tender for NRS contracts.
- Contract laboratories must also perform satisfactorily under NRS audits, and these audits may sometimes be conducted by technical assessors of Australia’s trading partners.
- NRS also requires that each contract laboratory participates in an intra-laboratory check program, whereby the laboratory prepares their own intra-laboratory check samples appropriate to their contracted program. At least one sample applicable to the contracted program is to be analysed in each calendar month in which NRS samples are analysed. Results are to be reported to NRS on a monthly basis.
- In recent years, NRS has established an incurred residue program, whereby animals are dosed with pesticides or veterinary medicines, slaughtered and relevant organs harvested for use as double blind samples in the NRS random monitoring program and method development samples. Contract laboratories must demonstrate satisfactory performance in testing of these blind samples.
NATA accreditation (or international equivalent) of the test method is not required at the time the laboratory submits its tender, but accreditation to the ISO/IEC 17025 standard is required before commencement of testing services under contract.
All NRS PT samples are prepared by NRS RC-LPE staff in the Canberra PT laboratory. NRS is accredited by NATA as a proficiency test provider in compliance with the criteria set out in ISO/IEC 17043, Conformity assessment – General requirements for proficiency testing. Accreditation of NRS PT activities is important because it ensures that NRS PT is recognised within the national and international laboratory community as meeting internationally accepted standards in both technical competence and the ability to establish the proficiency of participating laboratories.
Laboratory performance in PT is assessed by the NRS Laboratory Performance Evaluation (LPE) Committee, on the ability to detect, identify and quantify any residues present in the samples and appropriately report these results.
The NRS PT programs are customised to support testing under NRS random monitoring programs. As the number of laboratories participating in NRS PT is generally small, NRS has developed both statistical and non-statistical methods to assess the performance of participating laboratories. Statistical approaches are used when sufficient numbers of laboratories participate in a given test (ideally ≥5) and the non-statistical approaches are used when insufficient numbers of laboratories participate to allow full statistical analysis of results to be undertaken.