Vol. 24, No. 3
Analytical MethodsAOACs Experience Over 100 Years
The AOAC INTERNATIONAL
is an organization devoted to the validation and use of chemical and
microbiological analytical methods. It was organized in 1886 as the
Association of Official Agricultural Chemists by a group of chemists
whose interest was in harmonizing methods of analysis for fertilizers.
The first president was Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, the director of the Bureau
of Chemistry of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dr Wileys
interests turned eventually to foods, and specifically, to additives
then used commonly in foods. Dr. Wiley was able to show that many of
these food additives were significantly toxic and harmful to consumers
when ingested. Because of Dr. Wileys pioneering work on food additives,
the U.S. Congress passed the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, which resulted
eventually in the establishment of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
AOAC headquarters building in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA
Dr. Wiley realized that to provide regulatory control over food additives,
or any contaminant for that matter, one had to develop good analytical
methodology and show that these methods, when used in more than one
laboratory, gave equivalent results. In addition, it was necessary to
be able to estimate the expected variability to be encountered between
qualified laboratories using the method. Today we refer to this as the
method reproducibility, relative standard deviation, or uncertainty.
Based upon the pioneering efforts of Dr. Wiley, the procedure by which
one measures a methods capabilities through the conduct of a collaborative
study (roundrobin, ring test, or multilaboratory collaborative study)
were developed through a cooperative effort of government, industry,
and academic scientists over a period of many years. The function of
the AOAC was to independently evaluate the results obtained in such
studies. Within the AOAC, an Official Methods Board (OMB) was established
to serve this peer-review function.
OMB was convinced that methods could yield equivalent results when performed
by competent analysts, they were termed "official methods." The first
compilation of official methods was published in 1920 as the Official
Methods of Analysis of the AOAC (OMA). The 17th edition of this
compendium was published in June 2000 and contains over 2000 methods.
When the FDA was established in the 1930s, the Bureau of Chemistry was
moved into the new agency. The FDA wrote into its regulations that "it
is the policy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in its enforcement
programs to utilize the methods of analysis of the AOAC as published
in the latest edition of their publication, Official Methods of the
Analysis of the AOAC International, and the supplements thereto
. when available and applicable."
passed, within the FDA the focus shifted away from food additives to
food contaminants, so that the OMA soon contained official methods for
pesticides, heavy metals, industrial chemicals, animal drugs, cosmetics
and colors, natural toxicants, and more. Each category of methods became
a chapter in OMA. At the same time, the procedures for validation of
methods were continually improved. Details of the validation procedures
used by the AOAC in its method validation programs may be found on the
AOAC Web site. These procedures were eventually harmonized through IUPAC
and are today internationally accepted. Many of the AOAC methods are
now incorporated in Codex standards as "reference methods."
as a result of an effort to "privatize" some parts of the U.S. federal
government, the AOAC was converted into a nonprofit, nongovernmental
organization. Whereas at one time 80%90% of the AOAC membership
was government employees, today only about 20% is government, with about
65% industrial. Almost 50% of the members reside outside of the United
members value AOAC as a source of validated analytical methods, as a
publication outlet for scientific papers, and as a venue for interacting
with analytical chemists, microbiologists, and food scientists worldwide.
years, the need for microbiological methods and the validation of such
methods has resulted in an increasing number of microbiologists within
the AOAC. In 1990, this fact, along with an increasing international
membership, motivated the AOAC to change its name to AOAC INTERNATIONAL,
with AOAC referring to the Association of Analytical Communities.
organization of chemists and microbiologists, the AOAC continues to
focus on the crucial issues surrounding
validation of analytical methods. The AOAC has recently initiated a
multiyear collaborative effort to develop an Internet-accessible, electronic
database of methods used in the analysis of foods, which are categorized
according to the degree to which they have been validated. The AOAC
has recently established three task forces focused on the development
and validation of analytical methods for the following: (1) dietary
supplements, (2) food allergens, and (3) agricultural biotechnology
(i.e., methods for analysis of foods for genetically engineered organisms).
The AOAC is a member-responsive organization, providing many products
the research scientist, the Journal of AOAC INTERNATIONAL is
a highly respected outlet for publication.
the laboratory manager, the Technical Division on Laboratory Management
and a Technical Division on Reference Materials offers training in
laboratory quality assurance and laboratory certification, and, most
important, provides A2LA-certified, laboratory-proficiency testing
all members, AOAC providesthrough the AOAC Web site and through
the highly regarded member journal, Inside Laboratory Management
a connection to approximately 4000 individuals worldwide, in government,
industry, and academia.
these products and services are available through the AOAC Web site.
of validated analytical methods in world trade, in providing local and
international product regulation, in informing consumers through product
labels, and in protecting consumers from terrorist acts, cannot be underestimated.
The AOAC has been, and will be in the future, a principal source of
such validated methods.
Pohland is director of the Office of International Activities at AOAC