As of January of 2011, 100 alternative methods in the field of food microbiology have received the NF VALIDATION mark. The validated methods concern the detection of micro-organisms (Listeria, Salmonella, Coliforms...) and the detection of antibiotics.
The NF VALIDATION mark has been widely recognised in France since the 90s and is now well-established in Europe and internationally. It is a completely separate European certification system, operating alongside the technical validation systems of NordVal (inter-governmental validation system of 5 Nordic countries) and AOAC (North American technical validation system).
Since its publication in 2003, AFNOR Certification has adopted the validation protocol based on the EN ISO 16140 standard (protocol for the validation of alternative methods). The protocol used has been adapted to take account of the technical board’s own interpretations, as considered necessary.
The NF VALIDATION mark is number one on the European and world market with more than 80 methods validated according to the EN ISO 16140 protocol at the beginning of 2009, for both qualitative and quantitative methods. Methods validated according to a protocol prior to EN ISO 16140 are currently being studied to bring them into line with the new protocol.
Due to its experience in the implementation of validation studies according to EN ISO 16140, AFNOR Certification was able to submit a technical document backed up by data to ISO in 2005 for the purposes of initiating the revision of this standard. Through its significant technical contribution, the NF VALIDATION mark is allowing international standardisation bodies to make revisions to this standard on the basis of objective criteria (validation data).
NF VALIDATION’s contributions to the implementation of the EN ISO 16140 protocol include, in particular, the large number of naturally contaminated samples and the variety of matrices tested in the accuracy study, as well as the need to confirm positive samples for methods used to detect pathogenic micro-organisms.
In January 2006, the application of Regulation (EC) 2073/2005 relating to the microbiological criteria applicable to foodstuffs gave the NF VALIDATION mark a truly European standing.
In fact, the NF VALIDATION mark meets the three fundamental requirements described in article 5 of the regulation with a view to European recognition of alternative methods:
- It is issued by a third party certifying organisation (AFNOR Certification).
- It implements the validation protocol described in EN ISO 16140.
- It takes as a reference for validation the methods described in the annex of the regulation.
The Directorate for food of the French Agriculture ministry (DGAL) formalised this recognition in its memo DGAL/SDSSA/N2008-8009 of 14 january 2008, which states: “as far as proprietary alternative methods are concerned, the certification granted by AFNOR Certification with the "NF VALIDATION mark" complies with the requirements of article 5 in regulation (EC) 2073/2005”.(See articles 4.1 and 4.3 in the note)
Negotiations are under way between AFNOR Certification and other validation systems in Europe and worldwide in order to establish mutual recognition between different validation systems in the future.