Food Safety Magazine

SOLUTIONS IN RAPID MICROBIOLOGY | October/November 2009

Setting the Standard for Quality Proficiency Testing Programs

By ATCC

Setting the Standard for Quality Proficiency Testing Programs

Top-performing food microbiology laboratories realize the importance of effective proficiency testing programs. Safety, reputation and accreditation depend on it. More and more, food microbiology laboratories are turning to proficiency testing providers to assess their competency and identify areas in need of improvement. Successful performance in an external proficiency testing program is a key indicator of high laboratory quality. Microbial strains with confirmed identity, viability and purity, backed by meticulous laboratory procedures that minimize subculturing, are important components of proficiency testing programs. And they are important to ATCC.

Proficiency testing manufacturers and providers look to the ATCC brand to provide the top-quality microbial strains needed to maintain outstanding proficiency testing (PT) programs. Since 1925, the company has set the standard for authenticating and distributing biological materials for research and testing in the life sciences.

Proficiency Standard® Program
ATCC established the Proficiency Standard program to improve the laboratory PT system by raising the quality and consistency of the microorganisms and biological materials used in PT samples. In addition, the program improves laboratory safety by working with PT providers and manufacturers to qualify microorganisms for identity and biosafety level before being included in a PT panel. The program also provides traceability of the PT sample materials. Microorganisms are tested for confirmation of identity using a polyphasic approach that incorporates traditional biochemical tests, phenotypic testing and genotypic tests. Fully authenticated PT materials bring consistency and reliability to proficiency testing and allow results to be compared within a group of laboratories.

In the past, microorganisms used in proficiency panels have been reported to have been subjected to excessive subculturing, have had unknown pedigrees, have been misidentified or contaminated and may have been stored under variable conditions. These factors can degrade the quality of the PT programs and expose laboratory personnel to undue hazards. “As a nonprofit company devoted to science and the public health, we take very seriously our responsibility to ensure the quality of the materials provided by ATCC,” explains Raymond H. Cypess, DVM, Ph.D., ATCC President and CEO. “Microbiologists deserve to know with certainty that any materials they obtain for proficiency testing have been identified to the genus and species level using polyphasic testing that is performed in an ISO/IEC 17025:2005- accredited laboratory.” ATCC is accredited to ISO/IEC 17025:2005, an international standard that specifies the requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories. The scope of ATCC’s ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accreditation, which extends across a wide range of the company’s quality control testing, encompasses tests for biochemical identification, viability, titer, phenotypic and genotypic identification, including sequencing and riboprinting.

Whether in proficiency testing, quality control testing or process validation, the source of the microbial strains used should be considered a vital factor in generating valid, accurate results. If you think the inclusion of any strains will do, you may want to think again. To identify microbial strains that are handled, stored and tested with the unparalleled expertise that comes from over 80 years of experience, look for the symbol of quality—the ATCC Proficiency Standard® program. A select group of commercial manufacturers and providers are licensed to provide microbial strains traceable to ATCC in their proficiency testing programs.

Program Users
•    Proficiency testing service providers select specific strains for use in their proficiency testing panels

•    Manufacturers use strains from the Proficiency Standard Program to produce proficiency testing panels

•    Laboratories use proficiency panels in their required and elective testing. Facilities where proficiency testing is performed include food, clinical and QC laboratories.

The following organizations are currently participants in the ATCC Proficiency Standard program:
•    Accutest Laboratories Inc.

•    American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)

•    American College of Physicians Services Inc. (ACP)

•    American Proficiency Institute (API)

•    Centre Suisse de Controle de Qualite

•    Cleveland Clinic

•    College of American Pathologists (CAP)

•    Kendle International Inc.

•    Labquality

•    MicroBioLogics Inc.

•    R&D Systems Inc.

•    Remel Inc.

•    Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH)

Symbol of Quality
The Proficiency Standard program benefits both public and private industry by helping to make proficiency testing as valid, accurate and safe as it can be. Don’t take chances on the quality of the strains provided in your PT program. Be sure that your PT provider is using microbial strains traceable to the ATCC Proficiency Standard program in its proficiency panels.