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Glyphosate

(August 2019)

Key points

  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is aware of recent international concerns about the use of glyphosate.
  • Glyphosate is a herbicide which is widely used in Australia and many other countries to control weeds.
  • The Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) regulates the use of glyphosate.
  • The APVMA, in collaboration with FSANZ, sets Maximum Residue Limits for pesticides, including glyphosate, to limit the level of residue that can be legally present in Australian and imported foods.
  • We undertake routine monitoring of glyphosate and other agricultural chemicals in the food supply as part of the Australian Total Diet Study. The study has consistently found that levels of glyphosate in foods and dietary exposure for Australian consumers are very low.
  • There are no safety concerns relating to estimated dietary exposure of the Australian population to glyphosate residues in food.

What is glyphosate?

Glyphosate is a herbicide which is registered for use in Australia to control a wide variety of leafy weeds. It controls weeds by inhibiting the activity of a plant-based enzyme which is not found in humans.

How is glyphosate regulated?

The APVMA regulates the use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, including glyphosate in Australia.

We work with the APVMA to set Maximum Residue Limits, which are the maximum concentrations of agricultural and veterinary chemicals legally permitted in foods for sale in Australia.

The limits are specified in Schedule 20 of Standard 1.4.2 of the Food Standards Code. The code is enforced by Australian food enforcement authorities.

The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries regulates and enforces the use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals in New Zealand, including setting Maximum Residue Limits for New Zealand foods.

Is my food safe?

Before Maximum Residue Limits are established, we ensure they are safe from a public health and safety perspective.

We do this by assessing the limits against health-based guidance values, including Acceptable Daily Intakes (ADIs). ADIs represent a safe level of dietary exposure to a substance everyday over a lifetime.

The APVMA has established an ADI for glyphosate of 0.3 mg/kg body weight. In light of recent international concerns, the APVMA continues to review the scientific information on glyphosate.  The APVMA continues to actively monitor any new scientific information about glyphosate and remains satisfied that registered products containing glyphosate can continue to be used safely according to label directions. The APVMA's position and the Australian ADI is aligned with other international regulators and advice from the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (2016).

How much glyphosate is in foods?

We routinely monitor agricultural and veterinary chemicals (including glyphosate) in the Australian food supply as part of our Australian Total Diet Study. Glyphosate may be present at low levels in the environment (and sometimes food) as a result of legitimate agricultural uses.  

In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources monitors Australian food produce through the National Residues Survey and foods imported into Australia through the Imported Food Inspection Scheme. State and territory health and agriculture authorities also undertake surveillance programs for chemical residues in food. The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries monitors agricultural and veterinary chemicals in the New Zealand food supply.

25th Australian Total Diet Study (2019)

We assessed glyphosate in the food supply as part of our 25th Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS).

We found very low levels of glyphosate in some cereal based foods including bread, biscuits, breakfast and infant cereals.

  • All detections were well below Maximum Residue Limits allowed under the Code. These levels are set to protect the safety of consumers and reflect good agricultural practice.
  • The highest detection was at 0.080 mg/kg (or parts per million). To put this into perspective, 0.080 parts per million is equivalent to less than a cup of liquid in an Olympic swimming pool.
  • Estimated dietary exposure to glyphosate for Australian consumers was less than 1% of internationally accepted safe levels (ADI) and there are no concerns for the general Australian population.

Glyphosate results in focus

The very low levels of glyphosate found in the 25th ATDS pose no health concern for Australian consumers, including children.

From a dietary perspective:

  • At the highest concentration in bread of 0.080 mg/kg, a person of average body weight (around 70 kg) could eat more than 370 loaves (261 kg) of bread every day over their lifetime without exceeding safe levels of glyphosate dietary exposure.
  • Similarly, there was a single detection of glyphosate in infant cereal (0.011 mg/kg). At this concentration an infant of average body weight (8.9 kg) could consume over 2000 servings (242 kg) of infant cereal every day over several years without exceeding safe levels of glyphosate dietary exposure.

These scenarios are based on the assumption that all foods consumed contain glyphosate at the highest levels detected in the 25th ATDS. It should be noted that the majority of food samples tested (77%) had no detectable residues of glyphosate. 

Page last updated 6 December 2023