FAO index page AG index page
Print this page | Close


If you are interested in submitting your application for 2017 Aflatoxin Proficiency Testing and Control, please contact Harinder Makkar by 20 January 2017. Round one will be dispatched during the last week of January 2017 and the participant testing results are to be reported through the APTECA website by 3 April 2017.
There is no participation /subscription fee.

©FAO/Ferenc Isza


‘Aflatoxin Proficiency Programme’ highlights reduced aflatoxin food-feed safety risk in Developing Countries


Proficiency testing programmes enable the evaluation of laboratories for specific tests and may be used by individual labs and their accrediting body to monitor ongoing performance. “The aflatoxin proficiency programme provides a useful tool to assist the global feed and food sector to manage aflatoxin risk”, according to Harinder Makkar from FAO. Laboratories participate in proficiency testing programmes to identify problems and initiate actions for improvement which may be related to inadequate test or measurement procedures, effectiveness of staff training and supervision, or calibration of equipment. The use of proficiency testing as a tool to assure the quality of test results is highlighted in the ISO 17025:2005 standard in section 5.9.


Global aflatoxin testing performance

FAO is conducting the aflatoxin proficiency programme jointly with Texas A&M since last year. In round one, 90 laboratories received aflatoxin proficiency samples and a total of 84 laboratories submitted data through the programme’s electronic porthole. Results showed that data from 96% of the laboratories were acceptable, and only three results were outliers. The participant mean results were slightly higher (4 parts per billion) than the assigned value and the average variability of the test results was double that of the proficiency provider’s homogeneity test result. These are both indicators that the proficiency programme successfully met criteria for a proficiency testing programme outline within the global standard for proficiency providers.


In round two, a total of 114 laboratories participated, of which 61 laboratories analyzed for both aflatoxin B1 and total aflatoxin and the remaining 53 laboratories tested for either B1 or total aflatoxin. This proficiency testing programme captured a diverse range of testing platforms with 48 results from test kits, 91 from liquid chromatograph, 24 used liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry, and 12 from other testing platforms. The assigned mean for total aflatoxin was 34.5 µg/kg while the participants’ average was 32.8 µg/kg. The assigned standard deviation for total aflatoxin was 9.2 µg/kg and the participants’ standard deviation was 12.2 µg/kg aflatoxin.  A total of three results were eliminated as outliers.  For aflatoxin B1, the assigned mean was 31.8 µg/kg while the reported mean was 27.6 µg/kg and the assigned standard deviation was 8.5 µg/kg and the reported standard deviation was 12.3 µg/kg. For B1, there were no outliers.


These combined results for round 1 and 2 indicate that 5.3% and 8.3% of the labs reported total aflatoxin and aflatoxin B1 analysis results outside the acceptable limit of 3 Z scores. A Z score of zero implies a perfect result, and Z scores greater than 3 should lead to a corrective action accompanied by an investigation into the root cause by the laboratory. ISO 17025 accreditation bodies review a laboratory proficiency sample results and are one of many criteria used to evaluate laboratory performance.


Laboratories participated from 5 continents with 55 from Africa, 21 Asia, 22 Europe, 9 North America and 5 South America.  A comparison between continents and testing platforms for total aflatoxin and aflatoxin B1 showed that the African laboratories reported total aflatoxin using test kit platforms with an average relative standard deviation of 33.6% and a composite bias of -0.08 µg/kg, the lowest among the continent groupings. Seventeen of 20 laboratories had Z scores less than 2 (satisfactory) and none of the Z scores were greater than 3 (unsatisfactory). The European laboratories performed equally well for aflatoxin B1 using liquid chromatography with an average relative standard deviation of 34.8% and a bias of 0.23 µg/kg. 

“This proficiency programme highlights the global aflatoxin testing capability,” says Tim Herrman, Aflatoxin Proficiency Testing Programme coordinator. The good performance by African laboratories for total aflatoxin measurement using test kits is likely due to numerous efforts to manage aflatoxin risk over the past 5 years. Several of these activities specifically focusing on aflatoxin measurement accuracy include the Aflatoxin Proficiency Testing and Control in Africa (APTECA) programme by Texas A&M AgriLife Research that involves numerous public and private partner collaborations and the Laboratory Quality Systems online course offered by Texas A&M in collaboration with FAO. Further information is available at: http://www.feedipedia.org/content/aflatoxin-proficiency-testing-labs