National Research Council of Canada. Measurement Science and Standards
in-house laboratory reference material; shellfish toxin; validation of analytical methods for shellfish toxins; proficiency testing
The need for reference materials for quality control of analysis of foodstuffs has been stressed frequently. This has been particularly true in the phycotoxins field, where there is a great shortage of both pure calibration standards and reference materials. Worldwide there are very few independent bodies that produce certified reference materials for phycotoxins, the main producers currently being the National Research Council of Canada and the Japanese Food Research Laboratory. Limited availability of contaminated shellfish and algae, as well as the time and knowledge necessary for the production of adequate reference materials, continuously lead to limited editions of certified reference materials and even more limited production of in-house reference materials. The restricted availability of in-house quality control materials promotes the rapid use of the limited certified reference materials, which in turn hampers the production of the suite of materials required globally for complete protection of public health. This paper outlines the various options that analysts can pursue in the use of reference materials for internal and external quality control, with a view to optimising the efforts of both reference materials users and reference materials producers. For this purpose, the logical sequence is reviewed from the discovery of a new bioactive compound in shellfish, through initial method development up to regulation for food safety purposes including accepted reference methods. Subsequently, the requirements for and efforts typically spent in the production and characterisation of laboratory reference materials, certified reference materials and other test materials used in inter-laboratory studies or proficiency testing, in the area of marine biotoxins are evaluated. Particular emphasis is put on practical advice for the preparation of in-house reference materials. The intricate link between reference material characterisation and method performance is outlined to give guidance on the appropriate in-house method validation in the rapidly developing field of phycotoxins.