Pesticides and veterinary residues

The 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 that are not likely to be exceeded if the agricultural or veterinary chemicals are used in accordance with approved label instructions. At the time 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 Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Instrument No. 4 (MRL Standard) 2012 is a legislative instrument and can be found on the ComLaw website (external site). The schedule to this standard contains five tables that make up the standard:

  • Table 1—MRLs of agricultural and veterinary chemicals and associated substances in food commodities
  • Table 2—Portion of the commodity to which each MRL applies (and that 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.

The MRL standard provides an explanation of how these tables are to be used. See Setting of maximum residue limits for further information.

Background

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 and by the Chemicals Safety Unit (CSU) of the then 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 the APVMA). Since 15 March 1995, the APVMA (then the 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 APVMA Gazette.

Amendments

Amendments to the MRL standard are made regularly and will be published on the ComLaw website (external site). Notice will be given in the APVMA Gazette.

Relationship to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code

The APVMA MRL standard is referenced by various state laws so the MRLs become standards that are used in determining whether 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 Residue Limits’ has been 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 recognised 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 APVMA Gazette. Food Standards Australia New Zealand also amends standard 1.4.2 from time to time (external site).

Any comments or enquiries relating to these documents are welcome and should be addressed to:

Residues—Guidelines and maximum residue limits

Phone: +61 2 6210 4837
Fax:     +61 2 6210 4776
Email: residues@apvma.gov.au

Export slaughter intervals and chemical withholding periods

Export slaughter intervals (ESIs) and withholding periods (WHPs) for pesticides and veterinary medicines are available on the product label of registered products. Product labels can be viewed via the PubCRIS database.

About export slaughter intervals

Export slaughter intervals are advisory times that should be observed to allowi exporters of food commodities to meet the residues standards of trading partners. They relate to the time between the last administration or feeding of a chemical product to livestock, or last application to crops, and the slaughter of those livestock or harvesting of those crops for export.

About withholding periods

The withholding period is the minimum period that must elapse between last administration or application of a pesticide or veterinary medicine, including treated feed, and the slaughter, collection, harvesting or use of the animal or crop commodity for human consumption. WHPs are mandatory for domestic slaughter and are on the label of every registered product.

Read about the different types of withholding periods for pesticides.