EPPO Workshop on Accreditation 
for plant pest diagnostic laboratories

York, GB, 2014-02-18/20


The EPPO Workshop on Accreditation for plant pest diagnostic laboratories was organized in York at the kind invitation of the Food and Environmental Research Agency. It was attended by over 70 participants from 23 countries. This Workshop followed in the sequence of EPPO Workshops on quality assurance, previously held in Denmark (2007) and York (2009). Most participants were experts from official national laboratories in the field of diagnosis of plant pests and representatives of private companies were also present.


The Workshop was opened by Mr Robert Edwards, Chief Scientist in Fera, who presented the activities of the agency. He explained that 2014 marks the centenary of the formation of the first organisations that have evolved into what is known today as The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).


Warm thanks are due to Mss Weekes and Laurenson for the very fine organization of the Workshop and an extremely friendly welcome in York, and to the trainers for the practical sessions of the Workshop: Mss Chabirand, Antoine, Mehle, Mueller, Laurenson and Messrs Ingelbrecht and van de Vossenberg.




The meeting consisted of presentations on the following topics:

General introduction to Quality Assurance and accreditation
The EPPO Standards on quality assurance (PM 7/084 Basic requirements for quality management in plant pest diagnosis laboratories & PM 7/098 Specific requirements for laboratories preparing accreditation for a plant pest diagnostic activity) were presented with a particular focus on the revision of PM 7/098. The draft Standard Guidelines for the organization of interlaboratory comparisons by plant pest diagnostic laboratories was also presented. It is expected that this Standard will be adopted in 2014.
Mr Sykes (Fera) presented his experience with the logistics of provision of proficiency testing. Mr Galsworthy (Fera) presented his experience of establishing a quality system at CIP (International Potato Center).


Experiences of laboratories with establishing accreditation
Mss Bokuma (LV) and Sherokolava (RU) presented their experience with establishing accreditation in an official plant health diagnostic laboratory, and highlighted the benefit of accreditation in terms of improved organization and training. Examples of on-site proficiency testing in the framework of the Nordic-Baltic laboratory network were presented. 
Ms Grimault (GEVES, FR) and Mr Buimer (Naktuinbouw, NL) presented their experience with both ISTA and ISO 17025 accreditation. 
Mr Duarte and Ms de Souza (Agronomica, BR) presented the challenges of establishing accreditation for a private laboratory.


Flexible scope in plant pest diagnostic accreditation
Ms van der Blom (NRL, NL) presented a new approach called the ‘phyto-flex scope’ which is being investigated by the National Reference Center of the Dutch NPPO for accreditation in consultation with the Dutch National accreditation board.


Accreditation and new developing diagnostic tools
Mr van de Vossenberg (NRL, NL) presented the challenges of validation of DNA barcoding tests for identification and how validation should be approached for some of the steps.
Ms Mehle (NIB, SL) presented the approach followed in the National Institute of Biology (SL) for the assessment of uncertainties of qualitative real-time PCR and how this has been used to support accreditation. 
Ms Ravnikar (NIB, SL) presented the LAMP isothermal amplification tests and critical points for their validation.


Auditing: a driver for permanent improvement?
Ms Anthoine (ANSES, FR) gave practical examples of the audit process and explained how collaboration with the auditing body can help continuous improvement.


Statistics in interlaboratory comparison and method validation
Ms Chabirand (FR) gave an introductory talk on statistics to provide background information prior to the dedicated practical session. 



The Workshop provided practical training on the following topics:

Method validation (establishment of a validation plan; example of validation/verification of real-time PCR)
Participants were given a practical task with a set of instructions. The objective was to emphasize the importance of the preparation of appropriate and adequately detailed instructions. Discussions continued on this topic and its application to the preparation of adequate instructions such as standard operating procedures.


Organization of interlaboratory comparisons
Interdisciplinary subgroups were formed and asked to prepare a plan for the organization of a proficiency test or a test performance study (they needed to choose one scheme and one pest). They worked according to the guidance given in the draft EPPO Standard Guidelines for the organization of interlaboratory comparisons by plant pest diagnostic laboratories and then presented their plans to the group. From these sessions, it can be concluded that the draft Standard provides very helpful guidance.


Statistical analysis (in interlaboratory comparison and method validation)
Different statistical tools, applicable to different types of use (interlaboratory comparison/test validation) were presented. Participants were given a chance to use several of these tools to analyze qualitative and quantitative data using examples that were relevant to plant pest diagnostics.


The Workshop was rounded up with a plenary session with questions and answers on Quality Assurance.



Conclusions and recommendations

The Workshop participants recognized the benefit of accreditation for plant pest diagnostic activities (in terms of formalizing organization in the laboratory, training, traceability and meeting client demand). It was noted that establishment and maintenance of accreditation requires continuous top management and staff commitment. Participants highlighted that dedicated time is needed for this activity. It was noted that there is a major need for organization of proficiency tests in plant health and that EPPO should investigate how to facilitate exchange of information on plans for the organization of interlaboratory comparisons. 


The Workshop recommended that the EPPO Secretariat should discuss the following topics with the European cooperation for Accreditation (EA):

  • how a harmonized approach to flexible scope can be implemented in the EPPO region
  • the requirements for participation in proficiency testing for accreditation


It was noted that the representativity of the sample received in the laboratory depends on the quality of sampling in the field or of consignments. Sampling is critical and guidelines are needed.


The Workshop also suggested the following topics will be important in the future and that EPPO could possibly play a role in facilitating discussions or initiating actions on these topics:

  • Emergency situations (can EPPO be a platform for establishing task forces? could this be done under EUPHRESCO?)
  • Use and validation of new tools for diagnostics such as next generation sequencing.