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National Reference Laboratory for Milk and Dairy Products


Free movement of milk and milk products through the European single market implies adherence to sanitary rules and conformity with hygienic criteria. Hygienic criteria for milk and milk products are specific to the dairy matrix. Definition of a criterion, that is the targeted component and its satisfactory limit, is based on the analytical method applied to measure it. Therefore, hygienic criteria enforced within the European market are defined by reference methods. Reference methods are usually not handy to apply in routine, so that the European lawmaker let the possibility to use more convenient methods. Alternative methods can be used on condition that they give equivalent results as the reference ones and that the equivalency of the results has been demonstrated by a defined validation scheme. For control purposes, analytical methods are applied in a network of public and private laboratories that met the general competence requirements of the ISO 17025 standard. Harmonization of the methods implementation within this network is promoted through reference laboratories.


The National Reference Laboratory (NRL) has a mission of technical and scientific guide towards Belgian laboratories and officials in the analytical fields related to hygienic criteria applicable to milk and milk products.

Description of tasks

The main tasks of the NRL are: 1. To keep oneself informed and maintain the technical competences at the highest level, to provide scientific surveillance and laboratory management in a context of accreditation, to take part to international scientific meetings and technical workshops, to actively contribute to the evaluation of new analytical methods and to the improvement of the existing methods for the analyses under the scope of the NRL ; 2. To take part to international proficiency tests in order to demonstrate the technical competences of the NRL ; 3. To organize national proficiency tests for the laboratories that are registered by the Belgian authority (Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain, FASFC to perform official analyses, in order to harmonize their analytical practises and results ; 4. To analyse a minimum number of routine samples under accreditation ; 5. To get technical and scientific advice to FASFC. To keep FASFC collaborators informed about the conclusion of the analytical results, including those coming from the monitoring programs ; 6. To prepare and organize technical and scientific workshops for FASFC ; 7. To keep contact with the EU-RL Milk and milk products, or other EU-RLs concerned with the scope, and communicate the useful information to FASFC and to the registered laboratories working for FASFC ; 8. To get technical and scientific advice to the registered laboratories, mainly for the setting up and/or for the validation of new methods of analyses ; 9. Occasionally and at the request of FASFC, to carry out an audit of the registered laboratories in order to evaluate their competences ; 10. To help actively, in cases of crises and incidents, by giving technical and scientific advice to FASFC.


The National Reference Laboratory for Milk and Milk Products is constituted by the Instituut voor Landbouw- en Visserijonderzoek, Eenheid Technologie en Voeding (ILVO-T&V, Melle) and by the Centre wallon de Recherches agronomiques, Département Valorisation des Productions (CRA-W-DVP, Gembloux).

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The National Reference Laboratory is co-led by those two laboratories and by FASFC, and is coordinated by ILVO-T&V.


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