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9 July 2015 : ASEAN Food Reference Laboratories (AFRLs) NEW !!

ASEAN Food Reference Laboratories (AFRLs)

2015 is the year that ASEAN is supposed to achieve integrating as the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).  The AEC will transform the region into a single market and production base with high competitiveness.  While the AEC Blueprint has been implemented as planned, the AEC scorecard was created to monitor and report the progress of missions conducted for contributing the economic integration.


It is acknowledged that an effective food control system is crucial for the protection of consumers’ health. Besides, the system is needed in facilitating countries to assure their products’ safety and quality.  The food control system comprises of several components, whereas an analytical laboratory is considered the essential component of the system.


In moving to AEC, ASEAN considers the analytical laboratory is crucial for the efficient food control system.  Attempts have been placed on building several regional food safety infrastructures, including ASEAN Food Reference Laboratories (AFRLs).
AEC scorecard, thus, states the establishment of AFRLs.  Responsible by the Product Working Group on Prepared Foodstuffs (PFPWG) of the ASEAN Consultative Committee on Standards and Quality (ACSSQ), progress made on elaborating the AFRLs reflecting by the AEC scorecard can be summarized as the followings.


ASEAN Food Reference Laboratories (AFRLs)


ASEAN Food Reference Laboratories (AFRLs) are testing laboratories competent in the specific areas of expertise designated by PFPWG. They are a part of main infrastructures that support the effective food control systems.   In this connection, ASEAN Food Testing Laboratories Committee (AFTLC) was established by PFPWG to monitor and review the establishment and functioning of the AFRL(s) as well as support and coordinate the food testing activities in ASEAN. 


· Objectives


Objectives of AFRLs include:


·    a means of networking among ASEAN Member States (AMS) to support technical issues related to food and food-related testing in ASEAN

·    to provide technical support to the National Food Reference Laboratories (NFRLs)

·    a means for provision of technical assistance and transfer of knowledge to other food and food-related laboratories in ASEAN

·    for the networking with other international and regional reference laboratories for the purpose of exchanging technical information and promoting collaboration.


· AFRLs for specific areas of expertise


AFRLs were established for several specific areas, including pesticide residues, mycotoxin, genetically modified organisms, veterinary drugs residues, heavy metals and trace elements, food microbiology, food additives, food contact materials and environmental contaminants.


ASEAN Member States were designated to establish and operate AFRLs for the specific areas as the followings.


·      AFRLs for mycotoxins


·      AFRL for pesticide Residues


·      AFRL for genetically modified organisms


·      AFRL for veterinary drug residues


·      AFRL for heavy metals and trace elements


·      AFRL for microbiology


·      AFRL for food contact materials


·      AFRL for food additives


·      AFRL for environmental contaminants



· Documents for AFRLs


The AFTLC has developed a number of fundamental documents for AFRLs, including ToR, procedure, guidelines and other needed documents.  Following the endorsement, these documents will be used as guidance and references for the AFRLs.


1) ToR of ASEAN Food Testing Laboratory Committee


The TOR assigns AFTLC to monitor and coordinate the food testing activities in ASEAN. Significant articles for AFTLC are also specified in the document, including responsibilities, structure, chairmanship and co-chairmanship and meeting and reports.


2) ToR of ASEAN Food Reference Laboratories


The TOR identifies objectives of AFRLs.  In addition, it states other needed elements for the AFRLs; roles and functions, technical competence as well as procedures for establishment of AFRLs.  And, National Food Reference Laboratories (NFRLs) is also mentioned in the document.


3) ToR of Panel of Experts


According to the TOR, the panel of experts appointed by the AFTLC is responsible to conduct an evaluation of the technical competency of the proposed new AFRLs.
Other needed issues are also described;
criteria for selection of panel of experts, on site visit and dissolution of panel of experts.


4) Procedures for the Establishment of AFRLs


ASEAN Member States may propose the establishment of a new AFRL in a specific area of expertise, subsequently PFPWG shall achieve consensus on the need for establishing a new AFRL in the proposed area. The document describes a procedure for establishing AFRLs; submission of application, evaluation of application by the AFTLC and designation of the new AFRL.


5) Template for the Application Form for the Establishment of new AFRL


The template is intended to report the proposed new AFRLs’ competence and activities needed for their expertise in the specific field. The template with application form then will be submitted for an evaluation for designation.


6) Guideline for ASEAN Food Reference Laboratories


The guideline aims to provide the performance criteria for AFRLs as well as to ensure they recognize their responsibilities, roles and key activities within the ASEAN network of laboratories supporting the food control systems.


AFRLs play a role as an important infrastructure of food control systems that create and maintain the confidence on consumer protection.  Importantly, they will support a free flow of products of safety and quality through the AEC.  Finally, this will also facilitate trade of ASEAN’s products with high competitiveness in an international market.




ASEAN Food Reference Laboratories. [Online] Available from: http://www.aseanfood safetynetwork.net/ ConsultativeSubmitAFRL.php [Accessed: 15th June 2015].


Date : 09-July-2015