Ad hoc Panel on Technical Requirements for Laboratories
The 1st Meeting of the ad hoc Panel on Technical Requirements for Laboratories met in Paris. It was attended by 15 experts from 13 EPPO member countries.
The subject of what EPPO could do to assist diagnostic laboratories to obtain accreditation has been discussed several time since 1999. It was concluded that EPPO could develop a quality assurance standard for diagnostic laboratories and that accreditation could be provided only by an official (national) outside body. Nevertheless, it is only in 2003, that it was considered that EPPO should develop guidelines on quality assurance and that the Working Party decided to create the ad hoc Panel on Technical requirements for laboratories.
During the EPPO Conference on Diagnostics in Noordwijkerhout (NL) in 2004/04, an evening session was organized to exchange views on the questions regarding accreditation of laboratories/Quality assurance systems for laboratories and the role that EPPO could play in this framework. It was suggested that the ad hoc Panel on technical requirements for laboratories should identify the critical elements in ISO/IEC Standard 17025, and develop an EPPO standard which could serve as an interpretation of this Standard for plant pest identification. It was mentioned that this would be valuable as interpretation by national accreditation bodies currently varies between countries .
The Panel reviewed ISO/IEC Standard 17025 and identified sections on which specific drafting should be prepared for an agreed interpretation for the diagnostic of plant pests (e.g. facilities, reports, quality of the tests, selection of methods…). The Panel continued its work in sub-groups to prepare specific draft proposals. The EPPO Secretariat has been requested to prepare a draft document in July. The Panel has agreed to try to work further on the text by correspondence. The next meeting of the ad-hoc Panel is planned in February 2005.
The Panel also commented that validated diagnostic protocols are essential for laboratories in particular when quality assurance programs are developed and implemented or when laboratories were requesting accreditation. The EPPO diagnostic protocols are developed by Panels and written consultation but the methods recommended have not been ring-tested (except in the case of some DIAGPRO protocols). The Panel stressed that ring-testing was an essential validation step for diagnostic protocols to be fully used in a quality assurance or accreditation system. It ensures that the method is valid in different circumstances and provides indication on its sensitivity, specificity and accuracy. Ring-testing would give added value for the EPPO diagnostic protocols in view of the recent initiative to develop such Diagnostic Standards in the framework of the International Plant Protection Convention. The Panel also indicated that proficiency testing would be valuable.