Although Australia doesn’t defer to International Codex standards, it does have one of the most efficient systems in the world for seeking and harmonizing MRLs.
Having Australian pesticide maximum residue levels (MRL) established for a commodity is important when exporting to Australia. Australia maintains its own national MRL system and does not defer to international Codex standards or any other country standard. Australia also does not use a default tolerance for products without a MRL. Exports to Australia risk a residue violation unless an acceptable MRL is in place. Therefore, exporters shipping to Australia will need to seek an Australian MRL to be compliant with Australian food regulations. Fortunately, Australia has the most efficient system in the world for seeking and harmonizing MRLs.
Australia has two regulatory standards for establishing MRLs:
- Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code (MRL Standard) Instrument 2019 – These MRLs cover food treated domestically, and are focused on the residues of chemicals with APVMA-approved uses in Australia
- Schedule 20 of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Code – These MRLs cover imported and domestic foods
For groups exporting to Australia and in need of a MRL, Australia has devised an efficient system that can establish a MRL within 13-18 months once the required information is provided.
Under Schedules 20 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, Australia has created an annual MRL harmonization request period where residue limits for approved active ingredients can be established or adjusted to align with international trading partners if there are no public health or safety risks. This request process is administered by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
Every year around April or May, FSANZ opens its MRL harmonization request period. International stakeholders have approximately two months to submit applications for needed MRLs in Australia. Submission requests include active ingredient health-based guidance values, information on the food commodity intended for import, trade data, and other required information.
Within nine months of the application deadline FSANZ will notify applicants of accepted MRL harmonization requests. FSANZ may reach out during this period to ask clarifying questions or seek additional information. Typically, within a year of the application, Australia will officially publish the list of MRLs proposed for harmonization. Applicants can expect harmonized MRLs to be in place within a year after they are proposed.
Any MRLs established through this request process apply only to Australian MRLs, not New Zealand standards.
BCI has successfully assisted numerous commodities to establish over 300 MRLs in Australia over the last decade. Please contact BCI if you need assistance in establishing MRLs in Australia.