DAERA’s Official Controls and Official Activities: National Reference Laboratories (NRLs)

Date published: 08 March 2021

Last updated: 04 July 2022

Background: EU Official Controls Regulation

The Northern Ireland Protocol requires Northern Ireland to continue to comply with the EU Official Controls Regulation (2017/625) (OCR) post transition. The OCR details the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products, ensuring the reliability and consistency of official controls and other official activities across the EU. In order to achieve this, OCR sets out the methods to be used for sampling and for laboratory analyses, tests and diagnoses to meet scientific standards, satisfy the specific analytical, testing and diagnostic need of the laboratory concerned, and to offer sound and reliable analytical, test and diagnostic results.


In Northern Ireland (NI), DAERA is the competent authority responsible for the organisation of official controls and of other official activities for the purposes of protecting animal health & welfare (and in some cases protection of human health).

DAERA official controls are performed for the verification of compliance with European Union and domestic rules in the areas of animal health & welfare requirements; feed and feed safety; protecting human and animal health from risks arising from animal products; and requirements applicable to animals and animal products entering NI or exported from NI.

Other DAERA official responsibilities include activities aimed at establishing or verifying the presence of disease; containing the spread of such diseases; eradicating diseases; granting authorisations & approvals; and issuing official certificates.

Designation of National Reference Laboratories

Under the OCR, DAERA must designate National Reference Laboratories (NRLs) for a range of laboratory functions. The Northern Ireland Protocol explicitly states that the functions of NRLs, as set out in OCR, cannot be fulfilled by the NRLs of the UK, but can be fulfilled by NRLs within other EU Member States on behalf of Northern Ireland.  NRLs are essential for trade within the EU and internationally.

The document below lists the National Reference Laboratories, designated by DAERA, within the European Union.

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