Exceeding Maximum Residue Levels

Pesticide residue levels in treated crops and in animal products are regulated through the establishment of Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) at EU level.  MRLs are set by EU scientific authorities on the basis of residue trials results following the use of a pesticide in accordance with Good Agricultural Practice (GAP).  MRLs always include wide safety margins and are well below levels that could have any adverse effect on the health of consumers.  MRLs act as an indicator of the correct use of pesticides as specified on the label, and as trading standards for imported and exported food. 

When a residue is found above the MRL, the result does not automatically mean the levels of residue found are a risk to people’s health.  Therefore, where an MRL is exceeded, a consumer risk assessment is conducted.  The results of the assessment is provided to and independently verified by the FSAI.  A Rapid Alert is issued when residues detected in food are considered to be harmful to the consumer.  In addition, produce from the origin is targeted for further sampling and analysis.

Produce targeted for statutory sampling, as a result of information generated through the monitoring programme or following the issuing of a Rapid Alert is detained pending analysis.  Where the MRL exceedance is confirmed, the produce is removed from the market and may be destroyed at the owner’s expense.

In the case of domestic produce, investigations to establish the cause of the MRL exceedance are carried out by DAFM.  The investigations are geared to eliminate abuses in the use of pesticides and to ensure that they are not repeated.  Offenders may be prosecuted or subjected to a fine.