Proficiency Testing: Testing the Test
Standardized testing is frequently a topic of debate among educators, government officials and parents. Most communities have found that despite pitfalls and disadvantages, there are valuable reasons to benchmark students and schools. The same is true for food safety tests, typically called proficiency testing. Proficiency testing determines the performance of individual laboratories for specific tests or measurements. This testing can be used to monitor laboratories' continuing performance. Here are some factors to consider in your proficiency testing:
Why conduct Proficiency Testing?
Proficiency testing is an excellent way to validate your measurement process. This can be used as part of your quality system, regulatory documentation, or support for customer audits. This data can also be used internally by your team or in conjunction with your vendors to identify inconsistencies and address them before they threaten your products and processes.
Last year, the American Proficiency Institute released a study on the nearly 18,000 testing results from 1999 to 2013 for Salmonella. They found that false negative rates ranged from 2-10% and false positive rates ranged from 2-6%. Failure to detect a critical pathogen can pose significant risk to public health and false positives can cause unnecessary resource and product costs.
Using proficiency testing to baseline your performance helps ensure that you and your team are achieving the results you expect.
Key Elements of a Proficiency Plan
Frequency: Just how often should you conduct your proficiency testing? For accredited labs, the maximum amount of time between proficiency testing is 4 years. If you are not an accredited lab, you are able to select a frequency that suits your operation. Things to consider when defining your testing cycle are customer audit requirements, accreditation body requirements and proficiency testing cost.
Test Method: The proficiency test can be conducted by a commercial provider, developed internally or completed through a cooperative effort. If you are an accredited laboratory, it is recommended that an accrediated provider be used. Here's a list of the A2LA accredited testing a calibration laboratories.
Documentation: Documentation can be relatively simple. You should have a schedule of all the testing required and when and a summary of the results Important pieces to include are:
- Proficiency test
- Any Unsatisfactory Results (Y/N)
- Date Submitted to Accreditation Body
Getting Started with Proficiency Testing for DETECT/L
American Proficiency Institute, API, is a nationally recognized leader in proficiency testing. They conduct testing events three times per year for microbiology. The next event is scheduled for June. Sample6 DETECT/L can be tested using the Listeria - Milk test (767). For directions on how to run the API Proficiency Test with Sample6 contact our support team.