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.
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 made up of five tables. See the Setting of Maximum Residue Limits for further information.
- Table 1 (PDF, 2.5Mb) | (DOC, 3.8Mb): Maximum Residue Limits of agricultural and veterinary chemicals and associated substances in food commodities
- Table 2 (PDF, 319kb) | (DOC, 174kb): Portion of the commodity to which the maximum residue limit applies (and which is analysed)
- Table 3 (PDF, 589kb) | (DOC, 57kb): Residue definition
- Table 4 (PDF, 532kb) | (DOC, 766kb): Maximum residue limits for pesticides in animal feed commodities
- Table 5 (PDF, 325kb) | (DOC, 245kb): Uses of substances where maximum residue limits are not necessary.
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
In addition to the MRLs set by the NRA, (now APVMA) 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 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 NRA (now APVMA) has set MRLs for agricultural chemicals in food and animal feedstuffs and has maintained the MRL Standard.
Details of the specific amendments to this MRL Standard are published in the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Gazette.
- (*) denotes that the maximum residue limit (MRL) has been set "at or about" the limit of analytical quantitation.
- 'T' denotes that the MRL, residue definition or use is temporary to enable further experimental work to be carried out in Australia or overseas, and will be reconsidered at some future date. This symbol is also used in cases where an MRL is being phased out.
- E' denotes an extraneous residue limit (ERL). See definition for ERL below.
- The food commodity designations and their codes have been adopted from the Codex Classification of Foods and Animal Feeds (part 4 of the Guide to Codex Recommendations Concerning Pesticide Residues, second edition, 1989) with minor modifications. The code is included in the MRL Standard entry to assist in associating Australian MRLs with Codex MRLs. Where a commodity does not have a Codex classification, it is entered in the MRL Standard without a code. Modification of a Codex classification is denoted by [ ].
- The portion of the commodity, to which the MRL applies (and which is analysed) is given in Table 2. This table is derived from the Codex Classification of Foods and Animal Feeds, second edition, 1989. Consult that publication for further information.
- MRLs set for `groups' of commodities are applicable to all members of the group as designated in the Codex classification.
- Methods of analysis for measuring residues in food commodities must be appropriate to the residues defined in Table 3. Such methods are in most cases available in published manuals or in the chemical literature. Appropriate sources of methods for many compounds are available in the Guide to Codex Recommendations Concerning Residues. While the analyses are not confined to any particular method, they are subject to the necessary quality control procedures, including adequate recovery, minimal blank, a sufficiently low limit of analytical quantitation and absence of significant interferences. The analyst may choose any method appropriate to the compound, the commodity and the equipment, facilities and expertise available in the laboratory.
- An MRL shall be regarded as being exceeded if the result of an analysis (by an experienced residue analyst on a sample taken according to official protocols), when rounded according to the Australian Standards SAA 2706-1984 to the number of significant figures in the MRL, exceeds the level set in the standard, taking into account the accuracy of the analysis.
- For a food which is not specified but consists of, or contains, or is manufactured from one or more of the foods specified (e.g. fruit juice), the presence of residues at a level not greater than the respective MRLs is considered acceptable where there is no evidence of concentration. Where there is evidence of concentration, separate MRLs may be set for the appropriate commodities (e.g. wine, wheat germ).
- MRLs on food commodities (Table 1) are expressed on a "fresh-weight" or "as received" basis. MRLs on animal feeds (Table 4) are normally expressed on a "dry-weight" basis. Expression on a "dry weight" basis means that where the sample is analysed on a "fresh weight" basis, a moisture level is determined on a separate subsample and the residue is calculated as if it were all in the dried portion. However, it should be noted MRLs which apply to primary human food commodities also apply when these commodities are used as animal feed commodities.
- As a matter of policy MRLs are not set for residues in tobacco or in agricultural commodities used primarily for fibre production, such as flax, cotton balls, hemp, wool or mohair, or hides of leather as these are not food commodities.
- In normal practice MRLs are not set for residues in agricultural commodities used primarily for human or veterinary drug or medicine production, since it is assumed that processing under good manufacturing practices will remove any residues which might constitute a toxicological hazard to human health.
Extraneous residue limit (ERL)
Extraneous residue limit (ERL) refers to a pesticide residue arising from environmental sources (including former agricultural uses) other than the use of the pesticide directly or indirectly on the commodity. ERL is defined as the maximum concentration of the pesticide residue that is recommended to be legally permitted or recognised as acceptable in or on a food, agricultural commodity or animal feed. The concentration is expressed in milligrams per kilogram of the commodity (or milligrams per litre for liquid commodities).
Feed additive is defined as any substance or agent added to the basic feed mix for continuous long-term administration to livestock for specific purposes, for example, enhancing production or maintenance or health above the levels obtained from the basic feed, improvement of storage qualities and/or the palatability of the basic feed mix.
Good Agricultural Practice
The nationally recommended, authorised or registered use-pattern of chemicals, that is necessary for effective and reliable pest control under actual conditions at any stage of production, storage, transport, distribution and processing of food commodities and animal feed.
Maximum residue limit (MRL)
The maximum residue limit (MRL) is defined as the maximum concentration of a residue, resulting from the registered use of an agricultural or veterinary chemical, that is recommended to be legally permitted or recognized as acceptable in or on a food, agricultural commodity, or animal feed. The concentration is expressed in milligrams per kilogram of the commodity (or milligrams per litre in the case of a liquid commodity).
Meat(s) and Milk(s) [in the fat]
Where consideration has been given to an MRL for meat or milk, and the chemical concerned is fat soluble, the commodity is designated with the qualification '[in the fat]'. 'Meat' MRLs are expressed on a fat basis rather than on a whole product basis. The approach followed in the MRL Standard is that a portion of adhering fat is analyzed and the MRLs apply to the clean, dry fat. In the MRL Standard, when an MRL for cattle milk or milks is qualified by '[in the fat]', the MRL applies to the fat portion of the milk. Thus, MRLs are expressed on a fat basis. In the case of a derived or a manufactured milk: product with a fat content of 2% or more, the MRL also applies to the fat portion. For a milk product with fat content less than 2%, the MRL applied should be 1/50 of that for `milk [in the fat]' and should apply to the whole product.
Primary feed commodity
A primary feed commodity such as pastures, grains, forages and fodder, for the purpose of this standard, is defined as the product in, or nearly in, its natural state intended for use by:
- the farmers as stockfeed which is used without further processing for livestock animals, or after silaging or similar farm processes, or
- stockfeed manufacturers as a raw material for preparing compounded feeds.
Other definitions can be found in the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code scheduled to the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994 and related legislation.