Proficiency Testing Canada (PTC) is a not-for-profit organization that improves laboratory data quality by providing laboratories with essential quality assurance tools.
Accredited to ISO/IEC 17043 General requirements for the competence of proficiency testing providers, PTC has been providing proficiency testing for laboratories to help monitor performance and compare results amongst peers since 1991.
By providing a personalized service geared towards testing laboratory needs, PTC helps ensure samples arrive ready for analysis, reducing the chance of error and providing samples that are more consistent with typical samples. Reports are then quickly provided, containing all of the information needed to support laboratory accreditation and, if required, take corrective action.
While some agencies might use samples of hemp, PTC results are more accurate because they use actual cannabis samples found on the market for potency and pesticides.
“Proficiency Testing Canada is the only Canadian provider of real cannabis samples for potency and pesticide testing,” explains Nadine Lewis. “This increases the confidence in your results by using cannabis instead of spiked hemp. The results will more accurately reflect real-world samples.
“We also provide other chemistry schemes for cannabis in hemp and oil such as metals, residual solvents, and moisture/water activity.”
Last fall, PTC also introduced three new microbiology schemes in various cannabis surrogates such as oil, edibles, and flower. Laboratories participating in these schemes have the opportunity to report on crucial microbial parameters, including E. coli, Total Coliforms, and Salmonella spp.
“Proficiency testing monitors the quality of the laboratory’s testing methods and procedures,” shares Nadine. ”It provides confidentiality when comparing their test results against other cannabis testing laboratories conducting the same tests.”
From 1991 to the end of 2019, the Proficiency Testing Canada schemes operated under the management of the Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation (CALA), explains Nadine. Because of changes in CALA’s international recognition, the operation of these programs was transferred from CALA to PTC. Currently, PTC and CALA operate independently as not-for-profit organizations.
“Laboratories that are seeking accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025:2017 General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories need to meet requirements of Clause 7.7.2 requiring participation in either proficiency testing and/or interlaboratory comparisons. All applicant/accredited laboratories must periodically demonstrate their technical proficiency by satisfactory participation in a suitable proficiency testing activity or interlaboratory study.”
In addition, “CALA has a membership program,” she adds, “which is open to any organization with an interest in the work of public and private laboratories across Canada and around the world. PTC offers discounted rates for CALA member laboratories.
Since Health Canada’s licensing program for Analytical Testing Laboratories under the Cannabis Act and Cannabis Regulations does not currently align with international standards for laboratory competence outlined in ISO/IEC 17025:2017, participation in proficiency testing is not the norm in the industry,” Nadine says. “Cannabis producers hoping to ship cannabis internationally will face increased pressure to have their products tested by an accredited laboratory.”
Despite some of these challenges, Nadine remains confident that the industry is evolving and maturing, including with lab and testing standards.
“The cannabis industry will see improvement in compliance and quality assurance in the near future. Education of stakeholders, sharing of best practices, and engagement with governing bodies like Health Canada will raise the industry standards. Proficiency Testing Canada is always seeking feedback from laboratories to ensure a personalized service that is unique to their needs.”
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