Maximum Residue Limits (MRL) in Food and Animal Feedstuff
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) sets maximum residue limits (MRLs) for agricultural and veterinary chemicals in agricultural produce, particularly produce entering the food chain. These MRLs are set at levels which are not likely to be exceeded if the agricultural or veterinary chemicals are used in accordance with approved label instructions. At the time that the MRLs are set, the APVMA undertakes a dietary exposure evaluation to ensure that the levels do not pose an undue hazard to human health. Download the Chemicals and food safety fact sheet (PDF, 699kb) | (RTF, 1.46Mb)
The MRL Standard lists MRLs of substances which may arise from the approved use of those substances or other substances, and provides the relevant residue definitions to which these MRLs apply. The MRL Standard is a legislative instrument and can be found on the comlaw website (external site). The Schedule to the MRL Standard contains five tables that make up the standard.
Those tables are:
- Table 1 – MRLs of agricultural and veterinary chemicals and associated substances in food commodities
- Table 2 – Portion of the commodity to which the MRL applies (and which is analysed)
- Table 3 – Residue definitions (and marker residues)
- Table 4 – MRLs for pesticides in animal feed commodities
- Table 5 – Uses of substances where MRLs are not necessary
An explanation of how these tables are to be used is given in the MRL Standard. See the Setting of Maximum Residue Limits for further information.
In addition to the MRLs set by the APVMA (formerly the NRA) the MRL Standard includes recommendations made by the former Pesticides and Agricultural Chemicals Standing Committee (PACSC) of the National Health and Medical Research Council. It also includes recommendations by the former Chemicals Safety Unit (CSU) of the Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health.
The CSU was responsible for recommending MRLs for agricultural and veterinary chemicals in food and animal feedstuffs, and for maintaining the MRL Standard, from the disbandment of the PACSC until 30 June 1994, when this function was formally transferred to the NRA (now APVMA) on 1 July 1994. From 15 March 1995, the APVMA (formerly NRA) has set MRLs for agricultural chemicals in food and animal feedstuffs and has maintained the MRL Standard.
Prior to the making of the APVMA MRL Standard as a legislative instrument in December 2012 the MRL Standard was maintained on the APVMA website and amendments were published in the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Gazette.
The APVMA MRL Standard is referenced by various state laws so the MRLs become standards that are used in determining if approved directions for use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals have been followed.
Standard 1.4.2 (external site) of the Food Standards Code entitled "Maximum Residues Limits" is adopted by various state laws so that the MRLs become the maximum concentration of a residue, resulting from the registered use of an agricultural or veterinary chemical legally permitted or recognized as acceptable in or on food.
The APVMA has powers to amend Standard 1.4.2 in certain instances. Notice of these amendments and proposed amendments can be found in the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Gazette. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) also amends Standard 1.4.2 from time to time (external site).
Any comments or inquiries relating to these documents are welcome and should be addressed to:
- Guidelines and maximum residue limits.
Phone: +61 2 6210 4837
Fax: +61 2 6210 4776