National Reference Laboratories (NRLs) were established to monitor foods, animal feeds and pathogens in humans and animals, genetically modified organisms and specific substance categories, such as residues in live animals and animal products, as well as pesticide residues in foods and animal feeds. The establishment of NRLs in the EU Member States has provided the basis for European-wide, harmonised examination standards in the respective fields of official food and animal feed controls and in the field of animal health in regards to diagnosing diseases.
The legal basis for the establishment of the NRLs is EU Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004, which imposes an obligation on each Member State to nominate one or a number of NRLs for specific examinations and notify this to the European Commission. The NRLs must be accredited as test laboratories for the examinations in question. The field of responsibility of an NRL could encompass a specific substance or material category (e.g. pesticide residues), a specific group of foods (e.g. milk and dairy products) or pathogenic organisms for humans and animals (e.g. salmonella, BSE) or parasites (e.g. trichinae).
Tasks of an NRL
- Cooperation with the relevant Community Reference Laboratory – CRL
- Coordination of the activities of the official labs
- Conducting of round-robin tests for the laboratories coordinated
- Passing on CRL information to the appropriate authorities, official labs and experts authorised in accordance with § 73 LMSVG
- Provision of scientific and technical support to authorities in implementing coordinated control plans
The AGES NRLs make a major contribution to the protection of human and animal health by using standardised and validated examination methods that make the comparability of results possible.