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What is the best way to ensure that valid analytical methods are used for food control?

Abstract

Monitoring and Quality Assurance in the Food Supply Chain is a Network of Excellence funded by the European Union. This Network of Excellence aims to make food safer by harmonizing the quality of methods used for food control. Part of this process involves the development and validation of new methods, including rapid methods and emerging technologies; the production of practical harmonized guidance on method validation and criteria for analytical methods; and the production of reference and testing materials to be used for food control. New technologies and analytical research enable us to measure new and emerging food contaminants and other chemicals that may be a threat to the health of the consumer. Once risk assessment confirms the threat, legislation may be enacted to limit the amount of these chemicals present in food that is sold. In order to enforce this legislation it is necessary to be able to detect the presence of chemical and measure its concentration in food. Hence, the consumer protection provided by enforcement depends on how well the measurement method performs. We need to be confident that measurement methods are performing sufficiently well to protect the consumer, without leading to the rejection of large quantities of food that comply with legislation. A number of approaches that can be used to provide confidence include: the use of standard methods, the use of analytical criteria that describe the performance of a method, and consideration of fitness for purpose based on measurement uncertainty. This paper examines the utility and ease of application of the different approaches. In addition a simple method for assessing fitness for purpose, the uncertainty profile, is discussed.

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