EFSA recommends lower MRLs for several active substances used in pesticides

EFSA has recommended lower Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs)[1] for several active substances used in pesticides which the European Commission considered could have possible safety concerns for human health. The risk assessment conducted by EFSA on these substances will support risk managers in reconsidering these MRLs in order to protect human health. EFSA proposed to lower MRLs where safety concerns were identified and also for substances where data available were not sufficient to substantiate the safety of the current MRL. In addition, for active substances not authorised in the European Union but which may be found as residues, for instance on or in imported food and feed, EFSA recommended that MRLs be set at the lowest level which can be measured through routine monitoring in line with usual Community practice.

The European Commission asked EFSA to assess the safety of existing MRLs for 15 active substances used in pesticides and, taking into account EFSA’s scientific advice, may propose to amend or remove the relevant MRL.

“EFSA is co-ordinating the review of MRLs for more than 300 active substances. We began this work in 2008 and aim to complete it by the end of 2010,” Hubert Deluyker, EFSA’s Director of Scientific Cooperation and Assistance, said. “In addition, from 2009, EFSA will also provide on an annual basis a report of actual consumer exposure to pesticides.”

EFSA’s Pesticides Unit, which is responsible for the review of MRLs for pesticides, proposes MRLs for each active substance through a comprehensive assessment of consumer exposure and potential health effects resulting from all intended uses in food and animal feed. EFSA’s approach is based on internationally recognised methodology and takes into account different food consumption patterns and products available across the EU. EFSA verifies that exposure levels are safe for all consumer groups including potential vulnerable groups such as young children, the elderly and vegetarians. The actual exposure of consumers to pesticides will be evaluated in EFSA’s Annual Report on Pesticide Residues.

Notes to editors

The full responsibility for risk assessment of pesticide MRLs was transferred to EFSA on 1 September 2008. EFSA is not only responsible for the risk assessment of new MRLs, but also for the periodic review of existing MRLs.

In 2007, EFSA issued an opinion on temporary MRLs, as one of the first steps in the full EU harmonisation. See EFSA’s evaluation of the proposed temporary EU Maximum Residue Levels .

[1] The amounts of residues found in food must be safe for consumers and must be as low as possible. A Maximum Residue Level (MRL) is the highest level of a pesticide residue that is legally tolerated in or on food or feed. MRLs have been harmonised under EU legislation (Regulation EC No 396/2005 on maximum residue levels of pesticides in food and feed of plant and animal origin, amending Council Directive 91/414/EEC). The legislation aims to protect consumers and to regulate trade. More information on the EU legislation on pesticides may be found on the website of the European Commission, DG Health and Consumer Protection on plant protection and pesticides residues.
EFSA’s PRAPeR Unit evaluated maximum residue levels for the following substances: benfuracarb and carbosulfan, carbendazim, dimethoate, omethoate, ethephon, fenamiphos, fenarimol, metamidophos, methomyl, thiodicarb, oxydemeton-methyl, procymidone, pyrimiphos-methyl and vinclozolin.

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