National Reference Laboratory for Trace Elements in food and feed, for Nanomaterials and for Food Contact Materials [NRL-TE; NRL-NANO; NRL-FCM]

Last updated on 20-3-2019 by Sébastien Daems
January 1, 2017
December 31, 2020

Service(s) working on this project

Sciensano's project investigator(s):

In short

Official controls should be based on analytical methods that offer sound, reliable and comparable results across the European Union. The methods used by official laboratories as well as the quality and uniformity of analytical data generated by them should therefore be improved continuously. For that purpose, European Union Reference Laboratories and National Reference Laboratories are designated in different areas of competence. From the 1st of January 2017, Sciensano  operates as the Belgian National Reference Laboratory for Trace Elements in Food and Feed (NRL-TE), as National Reference Laboratory for Nanomaterials (NRL-NANO) and as National Reference Laboratory for the migration of inorganic elements from Food Contact Materials (NRL-FCM).

Project summary

The European Union legislation provides for a set of harmonised rules to ensure that food and feed are safe (Union agri-food chain legislation). To verify whether operators in the agri-food chain comply with this legislation, the National Competent authorities perform official controls. Such official controls should be based on analytical methods that meet state-of-the-art scientific standards and offer sound, reliable and comparable results across the European Union. The methods used by official laboratories as well as the quality and uniformity of analytical data generated by them should therefore be improved continuously. For that purpose, European Union Reference Laboratories and National Reference Laboratories are designated in different areas of competence.

Sciensano operates as National Reference Laboratory for Trace Elements in Food and Feed (NRL-TE), as National Reference Laboratory for Nanomaterials (NRL-NANO) and as National Reference Laboratory for the migration of inorganic elements from Food Contact Materials (NRL-FCM). The core tasks of these NRLs are the scientific and technical assistance of the competent authorities and of official laboratories appointed by the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain, as well as the organisation of proficiency tests among the official laboratories.

The responsibilities and tasks of the National Reference Laboratory are:

  1. to collaborate with the European Union Reference Laboratories, and to participate in training courses and inter-laboratory comparative tests organised by these laboratories,
  2. to coordinate the activities of official laboratories with a view of harmonising and improving methods of analysis,
  3. to organise proficiency tests between official laboratories, ensure an appropriate follow-up of such tests and inform the competent authorities of the results,
  4. to ensure the dissemination to the competent authorities and official laboratories of information that the European Union reference laboratories supply,
  5. to provide scientific and technical assistance to the competent authorities,
  6. to conduct training courses for the staff of official control laboratories.

Associated Health Topics

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