Residue chemistry and laboratory performance and evaluation

​The National Residue Survey (NRS), contracts the services of Australian and New Zealand laboratories to perform residue testing. The laboratories must have demonstrated capabilities in the specific chemical residue analyses that are required by export and domestic markets.

Selection of laboratories

Laboratories contracted for NRS work are selected by a two-stage process involving an initial assessment of eligibility to tender, based on meeting minimum performance levels in NRS proficiency tests.

If a laboratory proves to be eligible, an assessment is made of the value for money that the tender represents. The essential elements of the selection process are:

  • meeting minimum performance in the prerequisite NRS proficiency testing
  • assessment of appropriateness of analytical methods
  • confirmation that the laboratory has attained or will seek NATA or equivalent accreditation for the relevant methods
  • assessment of relevant knowledge and experience, laboratory management and staffing, general facilities, operation and laboratory space
  • assessment of and previous performance under contract (where applicable) or referees
  • assessment of tender price.

The NRS requirements for satisfactory laboratory performance include achievement of the NRS limit of reporting (LOR) specified for each chemical-commodity combination. Any Australian laboratory may participate in NRS tendering, providing they meet NRS tender requirements. Overseas laboratories are also invited to participate, where location and circumstances permit.

Laboratory performance evaluation (LPE)

NRS LPE activities (generally based on proficiency testing (PT)) seek to make regular and objective evaluations of contract laboratory competency. They are designed to maintain an up-to-date and continuing assessment of the proficiency of laboratories analysing samples for NRS or seeking to offer such services in the future.

We recognise the suitability of laboratories for export testing of produce based on such demonstrated competency. Laboratory performance evaluation also helps to ensure the quality of the analytical testing service delivered to participating industries.

Participating in proficiency testing

NRS proficiency testing is open to any Australian laboratory currently testing chemical–commodity combinations included in the NRS suite of programs for which an NRS PT program is offered. Overseas laboratories may participate where circumstances (e.g. stability of chemicals, import conditions, courier requirements) permit.

Costs of proficiency testing

Participating in NRS PT is free of charge, however in the case of overseas laboratories, additional charges may apply to cover the courier costs.

Role of the Laboratory Performance Evaluation Committee

The primary role of the LPE Committee is to act in an advisory capacity on the proficiency testing schemes run by the NRS. The LPE Committee examines analytical PT results and their statistical interpretation to rank laboratory performance in proficiency tests.

Members of the LPE Committee may also provide feedback on the planning and implementation of proficiency tests, and perform random audits of individual PT results.

National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accreditation

The NRS is accredited by the NATA as a Proficiency Scheme Testing Provider as assessed against ISO/IEC 17043, but is not itself a laboratory accreditation body. The NRS recognises and supports the role of NATA as the principal agent of laboratory accreditation, and the relevant nationally and internationally defined standards.

NATA accreditation (or equivalent) is generally required by any laboratory seeking to establish a contract with the NRS. However, the NRS does not require a laboratory to hold (or be seeking) NATA accreditation, either in a particular test or in chemical residue analysis, as a precondition of participation in NRS proficiency tests. Where appropriate, the NRS proficiency test results obtained by the laboratory may assist in the documentation of its application for accreditation.

In the case of overseas laboratories, the NRS recognises accreditation by bodies that are signatories to the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) Mutual Recognition Arrangement (often referred to as the ILAC Arrangement).

Laboratory procurement process and future contracts

All information relating to NRS tenders can be accessed through AusTender. The 11th term contracts run from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2018.

The 11th term contracted laboratories and their respective testing programs are listed below, along with new analytical testing programs that have been established since 1 July 2014:

Meat, Fish and Eggs Testing programs
Program number Program nameContract laboratory
Program 1 (shared)Antimicrobials in kidney, poultry liver, eggs and seafoodNMI (Vic)
Program 3 (shared)Phenicols in muscle and seafoodNMI (WA)
Program 3EPhenicols in eggsAsureQuality
Program 4Nitrofuran metabolites in eggs and seafoodAsureQuality
Program 4INitrofuran metabolites in retina NMI (NSW)
Program 5A (shared)Nitroimidazoles in muscle, eggs and seafoodAsureQuality
Program 5B Olaquindox and carbadox in liverNMI (NSW)
Program 6AStilbenes, zeranols and trenbolone in liverNMI (NSW)
Program 6C Stilbenes, zeranols and trenbolone in faecesNMI (NSW)
Program 7Beta-agonists in liver NMI (NSW)
Program 8 (shared)Pesticides in fat Symbio Laboratories
Eurofins Agroscience Testing
Program 8E    Organochlorines in eggsAsureQuality
Program 10 Cyromazine, melamine and dicyclanil in kidney QDAF CRL
Program 11 Benzimidazoles in liver AsureQuality
Program 12 (shared) Macrocyclic lactones and spinosad in fat and seafoodSymbio Laboratories
Eurofins Agroscience Testing
Program 13Closantel in liver AsureQuality
Program 14Imidazothiazoles in liverAsureQuality
Program 15 Triclabendazole in liverNMI (NSW)
Program 16Metals in liver and eggsNMI (NSW)
Program 20Androgenic substances in urineNMI (NSW)
Program 23Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in kidney QDAF CRL
Program 27Anticoccidials in liver and eggsNMI (NSW)
Program 28 (shared)Benzoyl ureas in fatSymbio Laboratories
Eurofins Agroscience Testing
Program 31Acrylonitrile & vinyl chloride in eggsAsureQuality
Program 32Indicator PCBs in eggsAsureQuality
Program 33Quinolones & fluoroquinolones in kidneyQDAF CRL
NARM/TART Screening Urine screeningSSS
NARM/TART ConfirmatoryKidney confirmatory testingQDAF CRL
Seafood Testing Programs
Program number Program nameContract laboratory
Program 306Steroids in seafoodAsureQuality
Program 308Pesticides in seafoodAsureQuality
Program 316Metals and inorganic arsenic in seafoodNMI (NSW)
Program 317Dyes in seafoodAsureQuality
Program 318Dioxins in seafoodAsureQuality
Program 333Quinolones & fluoroquinolones in seafoodNMI (VIC)
Honey Testing Programs
Program number Program nameContract laboratory
Program 201Antimicrobials in honeyQDAF CRL
Program 203Phenicols in honeyAsureQuality
Program 204Nitrofuran metabolites in honeyAsureQuality
Program 206Metals in honeyNMI (NSW)
Program 208Pesticides in honeyAsureQuality
Program 209Paradichlorobenzene in honeyAsureQuality
Grains Testing Programs
Program number Program nameContract laboratory
Program 42Phosphine in cereal grains, flour, bran, pulses, oilseeds and almondsAgrifood Technology
Program 43Sulfuryl fluoride (fluoride) in cereal grains, flour, bran, pulses, oilseedsOMIC Australia
Program 46Metals in cereal grains, flour, bran, pulses, oilseeds and macadamia nuts and almondsAgrifood Technology
Program 49Multiresidue pesticide screen in cereal grains, flour, bran, pulses, oilseedsSymbio Laboratories
Program 49HHerbicides in cereal grains, flour, bran, pulses, oilseeds, macadamia nuts and almonds  Symbio Laboratories
Program 49MMycotoxins in cereal grains, flour, bran, pulses, oilseedsSymbio Laboratories
Horticulture Testing Programs
Program number Program nameContract laboratory
Program 169Multiresidue pesticide screen including dithiocarbamates in macadamia nuts, almonds, apples and pears and citrusSymbio Laboratories

Testing and reporting of results

For the information of laboratories wishing to undertake contract work, the NRS specifies and publishes LOR values for each chemical–commodity combination required for NRS tests. These values are published in the 'National Residue Survey Proficiency Tests Handbook' (available from NRS on request).

Laboratory method LORs would generally be expected to be less than or equal to the NRS specified values. A contract laboratory must report quantitative results for analytes detected above the laboratory's method LOR, irrespective of the level at which the NRS LOR has been set. Detections of an analyte above the laboratory's method LOD, but less than the laboratory's method LOR, must also be reported.

All analytes reported at or above the laboratory's method LOD must have been identified in a manner consistent with the criteria outlined in the European Commission Decision 2002/657/EC (available from NRS on request).