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J AOAC Int. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2017 September 22.
Published in final edited form as:
PMCID: PMC5609832

Who Needs Reference Materials?

Reference materials are of critical importance in establishing comparability and accuracy of analytical results between different locations and over time. A reference material is defined as a “material, sufficiently homogeneous and stable with respect to one or more specified properties, which has been established to be fit for its intended use in a measurement process.” Reference materials can range from neat crystalline materials or pure or mixed solutions that can be used for calibration to highly-complex matrix-based materials. Calibration standards or solutions can be used in method development or to establish traceability to the SI, while matrix materials provide quality control benchmarks to ensure accuracy and even improve the accuracy through method validation. Both types of reference materials are very important and are used for distinctly different purposes. Each analytical community has unique needs with respect to reference materials, and a number of application fields will be highlighted in this collection spanning from natural toxins to pet food and finally to infant formula. Regardless of the application field, the common thread is the assurance of the accuracy and comparability of the results through the use of reference materials.

A series of special invited guest articles on reference materials will be published in the Journal in two groups; the first of which are in this issue. The goal of this series is to provide information to consumers, industry, researchers, and regulators on the development of new reference materials as well as the importance of the use of reference materials in a variety of analytical communities. In this issue, the first papers in the series provide an overview of the reference material database developed and managed by the AOAC Technical Division on Reference Materials (TDRM), as well as the development of calibration and matrix certified reference materials for diarrhetic shellfish poisoning toxins and the analysis of natural toxins by liquid chromatography with chemiluminescence nitrogen detection. Papers in a future issue will discuss the development of a new reference material for pet food, the importance of reference materials in the infant formula industry, as well as critical needs for reference materials in the contract testing laboratory.

This special series of original research papers provides an important contribution to the understanding of the development and use of reference materials in areas such as natural toxins, pet food, and infant formula. Participation of the various authors and expert reviewers in this series is gratefully acknowledged.

Contributor Information

Melissa Phillips, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA.

Håkan Emteborg, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements, Geel, Belgium.