Laboratory Accreditors Reach International Agreement


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Lab Accreditors Reach International Agreement

International agreement promotes the acceptance of laboratory calibration and other tests, reducing the need to retest imported products in participating countries. 

By Tim Alcock and Jim Mroz

The results of calibration and other laboratory testing performed by an accredited laboratory in one country will be accepted by an accredited laboratory in another country under a new international arrangement that may open up, or ease entry, of goods into international markets while reducing test and retest costs. 

For many years, regulatory authorities and professional bodies conducted assessments of laboratory competence to give assurance about the calibration and test data they provided. Concerted efforts have been made internationally by laboratory accreditation experts to harmonize assessment activities through the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Accreditation involves the assessment of the systems and methods used by a laboratory to ensure that it is competent to perform specific tests or calibrations.

ILAC, which was formed in 1977, oversaw efforts to harmonize disparate accreditation criteria and these efforts culminated with the ILAC Arrangement, a mutual recognition arrangement. The agreement was signed at meetings held in conjunction with the ILAC 2000 Conference in Washington, D.C., in November. In all, 36 laboratory accreditation bodies from 28 economies worldwide signed the document. The objectives of such laboratory assessment schemes include: 

* Unify laboratory accreditation schemes.
* Grant formal recognition to laboratories with proven capability and competence in specific fields. 
* Reduce and eventually eliminate the practice of multiple assessments. 
* Upgrade the status and standards of laboratories.
* Promote the worldwide acceptance of calibration and other tests performed by accredited laboratories.
* Enhance the quality, safety, acceptability and reputation of goods in domestic and overseas markets.
* Help protect the product manufac-turer or supplier against potential liability.

ISO/IEC 17025 replaces Guide 25

The ILAC Arrangement, which went into effect Jan. 31, means that a product tested in one country by a laboratory accredited for conformance with ISO/IEC 17025: 1999, General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories, will be accepted and promoted by the other 35 signatories in their home countries. For companies and other organizations that export products that are subject to testing, this is a major step toward reducing or eliminating the need for retesting of products when they arrive in an importing country.
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