UK national reference laboratory for food microbiology

Guidance and responsibilities of the UK's national reference laboratory (NRL) for food microbiology.

The UK’s national reference laboratory (NRL) for food microbiology is responsible for official controls on specific areas of food microbiology:

  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • coagulase positive staphylococci
  • Escherichia coli (including STEC)
  • campylobacter
  • salmonella
  • antimicrobial resistance

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) awarded PHE these responsibilities for performing official controls to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules, as described in Article 33 of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004.

Expert witness information

Local authorities and port health authorities ask staff in official control laboratories (OCLs) to provide witness of fact statements, advice to prepare material for prosecutions, and requests for suitable expert witnesses. The UK NRL can provide advice and practical support.


National reference laboratory

Food, water and microbiology
PHE Colindale
61 Colindale Avenue


Standard methods

Procedures for laboratory examination of all food types, dairy products and environmental samples.

  1. Determination of pH in food and water samples
  2. Determination of water activity in food
  3. Enumeration of coagulase-positive staphylococci: standard method
  4. Preparation of samples and dilutions, plating and sub-culture
  5. Enumeration of β-glucuronidase positive Escherichia coli: pour plate method
  6. Listeria monocytogenes and other Listeria species: detection and enumeration
  7. Enumeration of Β-glucuronidase positive E.coli: most probable number technique
  8. Salmonella species: detection
  9. Campylobacter species: detection and enumeration
  10. Swabs and other environmental samples: detection and enumeration of bacteria

Public health management

Reports and audits

Published 31 July 2014
Last updated 10 March 2020 + show all updates
  1. Added Determination of pH in food and water samples.

  2. Added 'Determination of water activity in food' document.

  3. Added 2016 to 2017 report to 'National reference laboratory for food microbiology: annual report'.

  4. First published.