Food Safety Magazine

Rapid Micro Solutions | October/November 2010

Setting the Standard for Traceability in Proficiency Testing Programs

By ATCC

Setting the Standard for Traceability in Proficiency Testing Programs

Top-performing food microbiology laboratories realize the importance of effective proficiency testing (PT) programs. Safety, reputation and accreditation depend on it. Food microbiology laboratories turn to PT providers to assess their competency and identify areas in need of improvement. Successful performance in an external PT 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.

Since 1925, ATCC has set the standard for authenticating and distributing biological materials for research and testing in the life sciences. ATCC’s mission is to acquire, authenticate, preserve and distribute biological materials, information, intellectual property and standards for the advancement, validation and application of scientific knowledge.

ATCC Proficiency Standard® Program
ATCC established the Proficiency Standard program to improve the laboratory PT system by raising the quality and consistency of the micro-organisms 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 PT 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, 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,” Raymond H. Cypess, DVM, Ph.D., ATCC President and CEO explained. “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 ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accredited. ISO/IEC 17025:2005 is an international standard that specifies the general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories. The scope of the ATCC ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accreditation, which extends across a wide range of the organization’s quality control testing, includes tests for biochemical identification, viability, titer, phenotypic identification and genotypic
identification including sequencing and riboprinting.

Whether in PT, 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 ATCC 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 PT programs.

Program Users

• PT service providers select specific strains for use in their PT panels

• Manufacturers use strains from the ATCC Proficiency Standard Program to produce PT panels

• Laboratories use proficiency panels in their required and elective testing. Laboratories where PT is performed, include food, clinical and quality control 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.

• MicroBioLogics, Inc.

• R&D Systems, Inc.

• Remel, Inc.

• Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH)

Symbol of Quality
The ATCC Proficiency Standard program benefits both the public and private industry by helping to make PT 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 your PT provider is using microbial strains traceable to the ATCC Proficiency Standard program in their proficiency panels.

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