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Frequently Asked Questions

 

Log-in and communications

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I cannot log-in to the website – help?

If you have forgotten your password, there is a facility on the website to help you ('forgotten password' link, just below the UserID and Password box). We provide unique log-in details to a named person only. We do this to preserve the confidentiality and integrity of your details. If you are not a named person on our database, you will not be able to log-in, even if you are from a registered company. If you and your company are new to Fapas or you are a new person at a company that has used Fapas in the past, then you need to contact us (info@fapas.com) and give us full details of your name and email address together with your company name and address.

I cannot submit my results – help?

Results can only be submitted by the named sample contact using their log-in details. If you are not the named contact for the test, you will not be able see or submit the results. You will need to contact us and ask us to change the sample contact over to your name. Sharing passwords will decrease the security of your account and is not recommended.

Where is my invoice?

The invoice will be sent to the named contact person for your company. If you are not the named contact person, you will not receive the invoice. You will have to ask the correct named contact person to check their email for the invoice. Please check that the email address you have provided is correct. If your company is on prepayment terms, pro-forma invoices are raised when the order is placed and emailed to the named contact. If your company is on standard terms, invoices are raised one week after the order has been submitted and posted to the named contact.

Where is my order confirmation?

The order confirmation will be sent to the named contact person for the order. If you are not the named contact person, you will not receive the order confirmation. You will have to ask the correct named contact person to check their email for the order confirmation. Please check that the email address you have provided is correct. Order confirmations are normally sent within three (3) working days of the order being submitted.

Where is the price list?

Quotations can be generated from our website by selecting the required proficiency tests and submitting them to a ‘basket’. You will need to register on the website to view the quotation (but there is no obligation then to continue with the purchase). There is a discount scheme for multiple orders and this will be generated automatically on the quotation.

Can I order more samples?

Yes, you can order more samples for each proficiency test but you will have to pay for each sample. You will not be allowed to submit results for each sample. If you wish to submit multiple results, you must purchase additional proficiency tests (additional registrations). Remember that a proficiency test is an exercise to test the performance of the laboratory as a whole, not individual components of it.

Can I order more proficiency tests?

Yes, you can order more proficiency tests. A discount scheme operates when you order multiple proficiency tests.

Can you help me?

Yes, we will try to help you whenever we can. It is important when you contact us to give us as much detail as possible as to who you are (full name as you have registered on the website plus company name). We have thousands of participants, so identifying you correctly is critical. Also, please give us as much detail as possible as to which proficiency test the question relates to, so we can help you as quickly as possible. We carry out hundreds of proficiency tests a year, so please help us to help you.

 

Sample shipment

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Where is my sample?

Samples are dispatched from our site at York, UK on the day that the test starts. The time period for the test includes the time required to transport the samples to you. For some countries, it can take up to 10 days for samples to get to you. Please be patient for the transport. If the sample has gone by courier, you will be able to track it (see below). You should contact us if your sample has not arrived within 2 days (UK), 3 days (EU) or 5 days (outside EU). You will still have a few weeks to carry out the analysis and return the results.

What is my tracking number/airway bill number?

Tracking numbers (airway bill numbers) are only generated for samples that are sent by courier. Samples which are stable and do not require courier transport are sent by standard postal service from our site in York, UK. There is no tracking number for standard post. All participants will receive an email on the day of dispatch to advise you that the sample has been sent. You will receive this email for standard post as well as courier transport. For courier transport, we will include the tracking number in the email. For standard post, there will not be a tracking number in the email.

Where are the instructions or information with the samples?

Instructions or information are not sent with the samples. You can access the instruction letter from the Fapas website by logging in to your page. The named contact person will be emailed when the sample is dispatched and to alert that person to access the instruction letter from the website. Any contact person at the lab can access instruction letters.

My sample is delayed at the customs office – help?

Unfortunately, this can be a problem and samples can sometimes be stopped at customs. If you advise us at the time of ordering the proficiency test that you need customs paperwork (customs pro-forma, declaration letter, phytosanitary certificate, etc.) then we will provide this in advance of dispatch. We will do everything we can do help you in advance of the dispatch. However, if you do not tell us that your customs officials require the additional paperwork, then there is little we can do to help if your sample gets stopped. In some countries, we operate through a local agent. In the first instance, please contact the agent who may be able to help.

My sample was shipped frozen but has arrived thawed?

Some samples are sent frozen with ice packs and temperature stable packaging. This will buffer the effects of extreme temperature changes during transport. In some cases the sample will defrost (thaw) during transit, especially if there is a delay in transportation. The sample will still be okay for analysis. If the sample has been in transit for more than five (5) days, please contact Fapas for advice.

Microbiology samples are delayed, are they stable?

Microbiology samples are guaranteed stable from the time of preparation until nine (9) days after the dispatch date. If the sample has been in transit for longer than this, please contact us immediately. Unfortunately, we are not able to send replacement samples if you haven’t contacted us at the earliest time. The ice blocks packed with the samples will have melted by this time. The samples will still be stable within nine (9) days after the dispatch date.

 

Results submission

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I submitted incorrect results, can I resubmit them?

We require a written request (email to info@fapas.com) to resubmit results. Please bear in mind, however, that part of the proficiency test is to be able to correctly submit results (as you would do for a customer). Also, there is a danger that collusion has taken place, which is bad practice. Please see our policy on collusion in the Protocol, Part 1 – Common Principles (section 3.5.1), which you can download from the Fapas website.

I cannot submit my results – help?

Results can only be submitted by the named sample contact using their log-in details. If you are not the named contact for the test, you will not be able see or submit the results. You will need to contact us and ask us to change the sample contact over to your name. Sharing passwords will decrease the security of your account and is not recommended.

Where are my results?

Results can only be submitted by the named contact person using their log-in details. If you are not the named contact for the test, you will not be able see or submit the results. Reports are generated within 30 days of the closing date for the test. Your results and assessments will be included in the report. The named contact person will receive an email when the report is ready to be downloaded from the website.

Can I submit results after the closing date?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to submit results after the closing date of the proficiency test. The ability to report results within the required deadline is a part of the proficiency test.

 

Technical

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My z-score/assessment for the proficiency test was not satisfactory. Is this because the test materials were not fit-for-purpose?

Fapas has been dispatching fit-for-purpose test materials for over 25 years. Test materials are thoroughly assessed for their suitability before they are dispatched. Critical test materials are also re-tested several weeks after their initial preparation. Participants' data are also carefully scrutinised for any underlying problems before assessments are issued in the reports.

Are your proficiency tests accredited?

All of our procedures comply with the requirements of ISO 17043. All of our major proficiency test schemes are accredited to ISO 17043 and our reports will state the compliance with the accreditation.

What does 'corrected for recovery' mean?

It is standard practice in many residues analyses (mycotoxins, for example) to correct the analytical result against the recovery value for the analytical batch. The exception is pesticide residues, where it is standard practice not to correct for recovery. Some methods, such as quantification by standard addition or use of isotope dilution internal standard, will inherently correct for recovery. These methods are commonly used in veterinary medicines residues analysis. Please ensure that you add a comment with your result if you need to further explain your recovery correction procedure. In these cases, unless otherwise stated, results will be assessed against consensus derived from recovery corrected data.

What does low level and high level mean in histamine testing?

Proficiency tests for histamine in fish will be advertised as low level or high level. Low level tests contain histamine at < 50 mg/kg. High level tests contain histamine at > 100 mg/kg.

What does low level and high level mean in metals testing?

Proficiency tests for metals sometimes will be advertised as low level (natural) or high level. Some metal contaminants, especially highly toxic ones, will be at natural (unspiked) levels and therefore will be at low levels, typically 10-100 µg/kg. Certain critical matrices, such as infant food, will also be at low levels. Otherwise, metals will be over-spiked to increase the levels.

Can I order a larger sized sample?

The sample size is fixed and as advertised on the programme. We appreciate that some laboratories' methods might use a larger amount of sample. However, the samples are intended to be single-use only and the sample size has been determined from consultation with relevant experts to be appropriate for the analysis in question. If you need more material, you should purchase a second sample and thoroughly homogenise both samples together before taking your analytical portion.

 

Microbiology technical

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The microbiology sample has been analysed outside of the recommended time frame. Will this affect the assessment?

We recommend that you start your analysis within nine (9) days of the date of dispatch show on the programme. Our samples are known to be stable for much longer than this but for stability to be guaranteed you must start your analysis within this time frame.

The microbiology sample does not appear to be homogeneous. Can it still be analysed?

Yes, the sample can be analysed. You might sometimes see a lump or darker colouration of the contents of the container; this is not a cause for concern. Microbiology test materials are not designed to be homogeneous within the sample. It is very important to download the instructions for preparation of the samples from our website and follow them exactly before you start your analyses. All microbiology samples (except those for the detection of unknown organisms in food) must be treated as a whole and must not be sub-sampled before rehydration/resuscitation.

I use a PCR technique to detect Escherichia coli O157. Will participation in microbiology proficiency tests help me to check my laboratory performance?

The strain of Escherichia coli we use in our test materials is non toxigenic. It carries the EAE genes but does not carry the VT1 gene or VT2 gene. Therefore, if your PCR method identifies VT1 or VT2 genes, unfortunately our proficiency tests are not appropriate.

I identified organisms other than the target organism in the test material. Are these organisms contaminants and would their presence have adversely affected my performance?

Microbiology proficiency tests adds background flora to most of the test materials to simulate the sort of sample that your laboratory would expect to receive routinely. The organisms we choose are ones which might reasonably be expected to be present in the product. Research and development is carried out to ensure that the organisms added will provide a reasonable challenge to our participants by whichever method is used.

I use a most probable number technique (MPN) for my enumeration test and my results are expressed as MPN/g. Can I still participate in microbiology proficiency tests?

Yes, you can still participate. However, MPN techniques are most useful and sensitive for low numbers of organisms. Our proficiency tests in enumeration in food are designed for higher levels, typically 10^2 to 10^4 log10 cfu/g.