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Quality Assurance Programs

NIST currently coordinates quality assurance programs that participants use to identify and understand community-wide measurement challenges, improve the accuracy of their measurements, and demonstrate an effort to comply with various regulations. These programs offer the opportunity for laboratories to assess their in-house measurements, and participation in a quality assurance program in conjunction with the use of SRMs has been shown to improve the comparability and precision of data over time.

NIST has extensive experience in the administration of interlaboratory comparisons and quality assurance programs.  For more information, please see our listing of historical programs.  While quality assurance programs are conducted similarly to proficiency testing (PT), NIST programs are not PT and are not designed to pass strict evaluation of laboratory performance.  While proof of participation in NIST QAPs may be adequate to demonstrate proficiency in some communities, the use and distribution of each participant’s study results for this purpose will be at the discretion of the participant only. 

Health Assessment Measurements Quality Assurance Program

NIST has established a Health Assessment Measurements Quality Assurance Program (HAMQAP), in part as a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). Participants measure concentrations of nutritional and toxic elements, fat- and water-soluble vitamins, fatty acids, active and/or marker compounds, and contaminants in samples distributed by NIST.   Samples that represent human intake (e.g., foods, dietary supplements, tobacco) are paired with samples that represent human output (e.g., blood, serum, plasma, urine), and analytes are paired where possible to represent the full spectrum of health assessment.  Participant data is compiled at NIST and analyzed for accuracy, precision, and concordance within the community. Reports and certificates of completion are sent to participants, and workshops and webinars are held to discuss results as well as methodological advancements in the area of health assessment measurements.  The HAMQAP represents ongoing efforts previously supported via historical QA programs, such as the Dietary Supplements Laboratory QAP, Micronutrients Measurement QAP, Fatty Acids in Human Serum and Plasma QAP, and Vitamin D Metabolites QAP.

Marine Analytical Quality Assurance Program

Starting in 1987 NIST has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)(link is external) to underpin measurements made on the marine environment.  These program resulted from a collaboration between the National Marine Fisheries Office of Protected Species Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP)(link is external) and NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS)(link is external).  The collaboration with the MMHSRP has continued since 1987 while the collaboration with NOS was continuously supported by the NOS National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) National Status and Trends Program(link is external) through 2007.  NIST continues to provide quality assurance services for NOAA NOS through its participation in the Hollings Marine Laboratory (HML) partnership in the form of training and technology transfer.  For MMHSRP, NIST provides protocols for the collection, processing, and banking of marine mammal tissue and fluids and archives them in its specimen bank facility at the HML.  NIST also administers both formal interlaboratory comparison exercises and informal interlaboratory studies to aid in the harmonization of measurements made on marine mammals for assessing exposure, stock assessment, and health.

Cannabis Quality Assurance Program (CannaQAP)

CannaQAP was developed to help Cannabis testing laboratories demonstrate and improve measurement comparability and/or competence. A QAP can be viewed as a perpetual interlaboratory study mechanism that is akin to a proficiency testing (PT) scheme but without the pass/fail grade. All results from QAP studies are peer-reviewed and made publicly available as published NIST Internal Reports (IRs), however the identities of individual laboratories are anonymized and known only to them and NIST. Examples of laboratories that may benefit from participation in CannaQAP include:

  • Forensic laboratories developing analytical methods to distinguish hemp from marijuana through quantitative measurements or screening thresholds
  • Laboratories testing Cannabis products for quality control (safety and ingredient labeling)
  • Regulators performing inspections or market surveys to evaluate product compliance
  • Researchers conducting clinical trials on efficacy of cannabinoids

Food Nutrition and Safety Quality Assurance Program

Participants in the Food Nutrition and Safety Quality Assurance Program (FNSQAP) measure concentrations of nutrient components (e.g., minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, dietary fiber) and contaminants (e.g., toxic elements, pesticide residues) in food samples, including infant formula, distributed by NIST. FNSQAP is designed to assist laboratories in the development and validation of new analytical methods, in improving the quality of their analytical measurements, and in supporting compliance with a number of federal regulations enforced by the US FDA, USDA, and other international bodies. Participant data is compiled at NIST and analyzed for accuracy, precision, and concordance within the community. Reports and certificates of completion are sent to participants, and workshops with participating laboratories may be held following future studies.  Future FNSQAP studies may address additional food safety areas such as authenticity, protein food allergens, and microbial contaminants, as needs are identified. If you have any suggestions for studies or would like more information regarding FNSQAP and other NIST QAPs, please send your request to QAPHUB [at]


CONFIDENTIALITY STATEMENT:  It is our policy that participants' laboratory identification numbers remain confidential and known only to them and ourselves.

Created April 10, 2009, Updated September 2, 2021