Countries around the world use different agricultural and veterinary (agvet) chemicals because they deal with different pests, diseases, climate and other environmental factors.
Maximum residue limits for agvet chemicals can be varied to align with international trading partners if there is no public health and safety risk.
Variations proposed by the APVMA
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) registers and approves agvet chemicals for use in Australia and may propose MRL variations in the Code based on its assessment of applications for the use of chemicals. When the APVMA proposes changes to MRLs in Schedule 20 of the Code, it will call for public comment on the proposed changes.
The APVMA may also ask FSANZ to consider MRL variations through the MRL proposal process.
Variations to harmonise MRLs with international standards
FSANZ generally prepares one MRL harmonisation proposal each year to consider requests to vary Schedule 20 of the Code to harmonise with international MRLs such as Codex or those established by the regulatory agency in the country from which the food is sourced.
The 2022 MRL Harmonisation Proposal M1021 has reached the final stages, with the proposed changes being approved by the FSANZ Board in early December 2023. Gazettal of the M1021 changes is anticipated in March 2024. The 2023 MRL Harmonisation Proposal M1022 is now at the assessment stage, after the call for requests closed in September 2023.
Requests to harmonise MRLs
If you wish to submit an MRL harmonisation request you must include:
- Information about the agvet chemical to be considered, including the relevant health-based guidance values.
- A description of the food commodity as described by Codex and/or the Code.
- The specific MRL you are seeking and a reference to the legislation where the MRL is published.
- Information on the food commodity or commodities that are intended to be imported using this MRL.
- Evidence that the food is to be imported into Australia including volumes imported from the country with the source MRL, details on the size and nature of the Australian market, and cost impacts in the absence of a harmonised MRL, if available.
FSANZ may require additional data for its dietary exposure assessment to determine, in the context of the Australian diet, whether the chemical residues are within the national health-based guidance values.
The 4th Edition (2023) of the Guide to submitting requests for MRL harmonisation proposals and the harmonisation request template are available to help you prepare your request.
What does FSANZ assess?
FSANZ will assess the safety, legitimacy and justification for the presence of the residues in the food including whether:
- the agvet chemicals are permitted for use in the source country/countries
- residues are expected to occur as a result of this permitted use
- the source country/countries have determined MRLs or equivalent standards.
The assessment will also consider the significance of the market and the cost of a lack of adequate MRLs in the Code for the food.
If there is no health-based guidance value established by the APVMA or the Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues for a chemical, it may not be possible to accommodate a MRL harmonisation request. In this case, you may wish to prepare an application to amend the Code. You can also submit an application if your harmonisation request is time critical.
The Application Handbook outlines the information required to make an application. Please ensure you meet all the mandatory requirements in Chapter 3.1.
FSANZ requires similar information for both MRL applications and MRL harmonisation proposals.
Contact the Standards Management Officer before lodging an MRL application at email@example.com