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Quality assurance in the lab: Why reference material is important

Trilogy reference material

Reference materials are indispensable in food analysis. Being an important component of quality assurance, they contribute to reliable and precise results. Here’s what you should know about them.

Ensuring the correctness of analysis results is crucial to laboratories, since incorrect results may cause economic damage and even a risk to health. Quality assurance is therefore an issue that affects every laboratory. Recently, we explained how proficiency testing can contribute to quality assurance. Another important measure, particularly in the field of mycotoxin and residue analysis, is the use of reference material.

What is reference material?

Basically, reference material is a substance with a specific, defined characteristic that serves as a comparative value for analyses. For example, for mycotoxin analysis, reference material would be a contaminated corn or wheat sample with a clearly defined mycotoxin concentration. Having this known comparative value, the analysis result can be better evaluated.

Why do I need reference material?

Reference materials play an essential role for many tasks in the laboratory. In particular, these include:

  • Calibration of instruments
  • Validation of methods
  • Training of employees
  • Performance / proficiency testing
  • Process control and quality assurance in daily laboratory routine

What do I need to consider?

The quality of reference materials is critical for accuracy and comparability of analysis results. It must be sufficiently homogenous and traceable. If you want to play safe, you should use certified reference material (CRM), which is produced by accredited institutions and is subject to strict testing. Certified reference materials usually contain a certificate with information on validated methods, measurement uncertainty and traceability. According to ISO/IEC 17025, accredited laboratories are required to use certified reference material.

Where can I get reference material?

Certified reference material for mycotoxin analysis is available at Trilogy® Analytical Laboratory, for instance. The range includes a number of materials for the most diverse requirements in mycotoxin analysis. Samples of cereals such as corn, wheat, barley, millet and rice are just as available as more complex matrices such as flour or animal feed – all being contaminated with one or more mycotoxins at different concentrations.