Residue chemistry and laboratory performance and evaluation

The National Residue Survey (NRS) contracts the services of Australian and New Zealand laboratories to perform residue testing. The laboratories must have demonstrated capabilities in the specific chemical residue analyses that are required by export and domestic markets.

Selection of laboratories

Laboratories contracted for NRS work are selected based on value for money via a tender procurement process. The essential elements of the selection process are:

  • proven analytical proficiency
  • organisation and methodology
  • knowledge/experience, staffing and facilities
  • organisational capability
  • previous performance and referees
  • price and costs to the Department.

The NRS requirements for satisfactory laboratory performance include achievement of the NRS limit of reporting (LOR) specified for each chemical-commodity combination. Any laboratory may participate in the procurement process, providing they meet the mandatory conditions for participation in the NRS tender.

Laboratory performance evaluation (LPE)

NRS laboratory performance evaluation activities, generally based on proficiency testing (PT), seek to make regular and objective evaluations of contract laboratory competency. They are designed to maintain an up-to-date and continuing assessment of the proficiency of laboratories that are analysing samples for NRS or seeking to offer such services in the future.

We recognise the suitability of laboratories for export testing of produce based on such demonstrated competency. Laboratory performance evaluation also helps to ensure the quality of the analytical testing service delivered to participating industries.

Participating in proficiency testing

NRS contract laboratories are required to participate in all relevant, scheduled PT conducted by the NRS for the entire contract term.  In addition, NRS PT is open to any other Australian laboratory currently testing chemical–commodity combinations included in the NRS suite of programs for which an NRS PT program is offered. Overseas laboratories may also participate where circumstances permit (e.g. stability of chemicals, import conditions, courier requirements).

Participation in NRS PT is free of charge, however in the case of overseas laboratories, additional charges may apply to cover courier costs and phytosanitary certificates.

Role of the Laboratory Performance Evaluation Committee

The primary role of the LPE Committee is to advise on the PT schemes run by the NRS. The LPE Committee examines analytical PT results and their statistical interpretation, where relevant, to rank laboratory performance.

Members of the LPE Committee may also provide feedback on the planning and implementation of proficiency tests, and perform random audits of individual participant results.

National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accreditation

The NRS is accredited by the NATA as a Proficiency Scheme Testing Provider as assessed against ISO/IEC 17043, but is not itself a laboratory accreditation body. The NRS recognises and supports the role of NATA as the principal agent of laboratory accreditation, and the relevant nationally and internationally defined standards.

NATA accreditation (or international equivalent) is generally required by any laboratory providing chemical analytical services to the NRS. However, the NRS does not require a laboratory to hold (or be seeking) NATA accreditation, either in a particular test or in chemical residue analysis, as a precondition of participation in NRS PT. Where appropriate, participation in the NRS PT may assist in gaining or maintaining of its accreditation.

In the case of overseas laboratories, the NRS recognises accreditation by bodies that are signatories to the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) Mutual Recognition Arrangement (often referred to as the ILAC Arrangement).

Laboratory procurement process and future contracts

All information relating to provision of chemical analytical testing for the NRS can be accessed through AusTender. The 12th term contracts run from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2022, with the possibility of extension to 30 June 2024.

The 12th term contracted laboratories and their respective testing programs are listed below, along with new analytical testing programs that have been established since 1 July 2019:

Meat, Seafood and Eggs Testing programs
Program number Program name Contract laboratory
Program 1 (shared) Antimicrobials in kidney, poultry liver, eggs and seafood NMI (VIC)
Program 3 (shared) Phenicols in muscle and seafood NMI (NSW)
Program 3E Phenicols in eggs AsureQuality
Program 4 Nitrofuran metabolites in eggs and seafood AsureQuality
Program 4I Nitrofuran metabolites in retina NMI (NSW)
Program 5A Nitroimidazoles in muscle, eggs and seafood NMI (NSW)
Program 5B Olaquindox and carbadox in liver NMI (NSW)
Program 6A Stilbenes, zeranols and trenbolone in liver NMI (NSW)
Program 6C Stilbenes, zeranols and trenbolone in faeces NMI (NSW)
Program 7 Beta-agonists in liver NMI (NSW)
Program 8 Pesticides in fat and eggs Symbio Laboratories
Program 10 Cyromazine, melamine and dicyclanil in kidney QDAF CRL
Program 11 Anthelmintics in liver AsureQuality
Program 12 Macrocyclic lactones, spinosyns and other anthelmintics in fat and seafood Symbio Laboratories
Program 15 Triclabendazole in liver NMI (NSW)
Program 16 Metals in liver and eggs NMI (NSW)
Program 18 Dioxins in fat AsureQuality
Program 20 Androgenic substances in urine NMI (NSW)
Program 23 Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in kidney QDAF CRL
Program 27 Anticoccidials in liver and eggs NMI (NSW)
Program 28 Benzoyl ureas in fat Symbio Laboratories
Program 31 Acrylonitrile and vinyl chloride in eggs AsureQuality
Program 32 Indicator PCBs in eggs AsureQuality
Program 33 Quinolones and fluoroquinolones in kidney QDAF CRL
Program 35 Corticosteroids in liver NMI (NSW)
Program 36 Sedatives in liver NMI (NSW)
Program 37 Herbicides in kidney Symbio Laboratories
NARM/TART Screening Urine screening Southern Scientific Services
NARM/TART Confirmatory Kidney confirmatory testing QDAF CRL
Seafood Testing Programs
Program number Program name Contract laboratory
Program 306 Steroids in seafood AsureQuality
Program 308 Pesticides in seafood AsureQuality
Program 316 Metals in seafood NMI (NSW)
Program 317 Dyes in seafood AsureQuality
Program 333 Quinolones and fluoroquinolones in seafood NMI (VIC)
Honey Testing Programs
Program number Program name Contract laboratory
Program 201 Antimicrobials in honey QDAF CRL
Program 203 Phenicols in honey AsureQuality
Program 204 Nitrofuran metabolites in honey NMI (NSW)
Program 206 Metals in honey NMI (NSW)
Program 208 Pesticides in honey AsureQuality
Program 209 Paradichlorobenzene in honey QDAF CRL
Grains Testing Programs
Program number Program name Contract laboratory
Program 42 Phosphine in cereal grains, flour, bran, pulses, oilseeds Agrifood Technology
Program 46 Metals in cereal grains, flour, bran, pulses, oilseeds Symbio Laboratories
Program 49 Multi-residue pesticide screen in cereal grains, flour, bran, pulses and oilseeds Symbio Laboratories
Program 49H Herbicides in cereal grains, flour, bran, pulses and oilseeds, macadamia nuts and almonds Symbio Laboratories
Horticulture Testing Programs
Program number Program name Contract laboratory
Program 142 Phosphine in almonds Agrifood Technology
Program 156 Metals in macadamia nuts, almonds, apples and pears, citrus and stonefruit Symbio Laboratories
Program 157 Microbiology in apples and pears and stonefruit Symbio Laboratories
Program 169 Multi-residue pesticide screen including dithiocarbamates in macadamia nuts, almonds, apples and pears, citrus and stonefruit Symbio Laboratories
Program 179 Patulin in apple and pear juice Symbio Laboratories

Testing and reporting of results

For the information of laboratories wishing to undertake contract work, the NRS specifies and publishes LOR values for each chemical–commodity combination required for NRS tests. These values are published in the 'National Residue Survey Proficiency Tests Handbook' (available from NRS on request).

Laboratory method LORs would generally be expected to be less than or equal to the NRS specified values. A contract laboratory must report quantitative results for analytes detected above the laboratory's method LOR, irrespective of the level at which the NRS LOR has been set. Detections of an analyte above the laboratory's method LOD, but less than the laboratory's method LOR, must also be reported.

All analytes reported at or above the laboratory's method LOD must have been identified in a manner consistent with the criteria outlined in the European Commission Decision 2002/657/EC (available from NRS on request).

Last reviewed: 1 October 2020
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