Guidance

Submit a supplementary expert opinion sample

Guidance for food traders on how to submit a sample to the Government Chemist for supplementary expert opinion.

The Government Chemist provides supplementary expert opinion on samples under the Food Safety Act 1990 and the Agriculture Act 1970.

You can submit a sample for analysis in dispute of findings by a Public Analyst laboratory if you have evidence to challenge the findings, for example a pre-export certificate.

Before you send a supplementary expert opinion sample

You must contact the Government Chemist Project Manager, based at LGC, before you send us a sample.

Government Chemist Project Manager

Kirstin Gray
LGC Limited
Queens Road

Teddington
TW11 0LY

When you contact LGC

You will be provided with:

  • a quotation for the analysis (typically only 5% of the overall cost)
  • an estimated date of issue of the certificate of analysis
  • a case manager, who will be your point of contact for any enquiries.

How much it costs

A supplementary expert opinion sample usually costs £1,500 + VAT.

A quotation will be provided when you contact LGC. Owing to the rigour of referee analysis the cost is much higher than a routine analysis but the bulk of the cost is met by the National Measurement Office provided that it is in the public interest to do so.

Costs can vary depending on the complexity of the analysis required.

What you need to submit with the sample

When you submit a referee sample you’ll need to state:

  • the act that the sample has been taken under
  • what you want the sample analysed for
  • how much of the statutory time remains
  • dates of any court case pending
  • that you agree to pay the administrative fee

You’ll also need to supply:

  • evidence to dispute the public analyst’s findings, for example a pre-export certificate
  • a brief background to the case
  • details of any sample treatment prior to analysis
  • the address, telephone number and email address of the enforcement agency and the owner
  • a Public Analyst Certificate of Analysis (optional)

Analysis of supplementary expert opinion samples

Supplementary expert opinion analysis covers a wide range of analytes and sample types, including:

  • mycotoxins
  • food contact materials
  • genetically modified organisms
  • veterinary and pesticides residues
  • meat products testing for meat and added water content
  • spirit drinks analysis for alleged adulteration
  • alleged irradiation of food

Obtaining samples for analysis

When food or feed samples are taken for official control analysis in the UK, 3 samples must be taken by law. One sample is provided to the owner so they can carry out their own analysis, if they wish. The control authority takes a sample to be tested and the third sample is the referee sample, which is sent to the Government Chemist if there is a dispute.

Samples may be sent for analysis on request of the owner, if they would like a second (supplementary) expert opinion and they have a reason to dispute the control authority results.

Samples can only be accepted for analysis if they have been formally taken and submitted according to the provisions of the Food Safety Act 1990 or the Agriculture Act 1970.

Example of supplementary expert opinion analysis

This example outlines the process for analysis of an imported consignment of nuts alleged to contain aflatoxins:

  1. request for analysis – advice is provided on how to submit the sample
  2. sample receipt and storage – the chain of custody of the sample is forensically important, for example, samples should be sent by courier or tracked post
  3. case meeting held to consider:
    • allocation of resource
    • administrative matters, for example, ensuring all necessary information has been received
    • consideration of critical points – method, sample homogeneity etc
    • food owner is contacted to check quantitative ingredients and processing
  4. analysis – statisticians are consulted on the analytical work plan to ensure data will be fit for purpose and a robust uncertainty value can be estimated
  5. a typical work plan will consist of:
    • triplicate analysis of case sample on each of three days
    • analysis of blank material to discover any interferences
    • analysis of overnight spikes of blank material on each of three days to determine recovery
    • analysis of certified reference material where available
  6. calculation checks by the case team, taking into account any slurrying of the product after sampling and, for example, the amount of nuts in a compound product
  7. results and statistical evaluation including expanded uncertainty.
  8. interpretation in terms of legislation.
  9. evaluation of fitness for purpose – have we answered the question?
  10. second evaluation.
  11. certificate signed, peer reviewed and countersigned by Government Chemist.
  12. signed certificate sent to the food owner and the official control authority.
  13. after the certificate has been issued, both parties are formally asked to comment on the service received from the Government Chemist, including whether they perceive the function to be independent.

An example of a turnround time is 20 working days for an aflatoxin sample. Please enquire for other sample types.

Published 10 July 2014