Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has called for submissions by July 25 on a proposal to amend maximum residue limits (MRLs) for certain agricultural and veterinary chemicals.

FSANZ Chief Executive Officer Mark Booth said the proposal aims to harmonize limits in the Food Standards Code with limits used in exports.

“If a chemical is found in a food product that does not have an MRL for that chemical it cannot be legally sold in Australia,” Booth said.

“Chemicals can be used differently around the world because of different pests, diseases and environmental factors. This means residues in imported foods may differ from those in domestically produced products, but that does not mean there is a safety issue.

“FSANZ has assessed the proposal and concluded there are no public health and safety concerns relating to the changes,” he added.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) registers and approves all so-called agvet chemicals in Australia and sets MRLs for them. Levels are set based on how much of the chemical is needed to control pests and/or diseases. The product’s chemistry, metabolism, analytical methodology and residue trial data are also assessed.

Limits are set using internationally recognized methods and national scientific data and are well below the level that could pose health and safety risks to consumers. All FSANZ decisions on standards are provided to ministers responsible for food regulation. The ministers can decide to adopt, amend or reject standards, or they can ask for a review.

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New Zealand has its own standards for agvet chemical residues in food. The New Zealand Government, through the Ministry of Primary Industries, enforces those standards.

Under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement, food imported into Australia from New Zealand that complies with New Zealand regulations is exempt from complying with Schedule 20 of the Code.

This means food that is produced in New Zealand and in compliance with New Zealand’s MRLs may be sold in Australia and vice versa. New Zealand also has a Total Diet Study which looks for chemical residues.

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