Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is currently working on a proposal to introduce temporary maximum residue limits (MRLs) for residues of two rodenticides—coumatetralyl and warfarin—in the Food Standards Code.
Why was this proposal prepared?
The proposal was prepared to align the Code with Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) temporary limits. These limits were set in response to a request from the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, after some testing revealed very small amounts of the chemicals in pig livers.
The Department of Agriculture testing found no residues in muscle tissue.
Is pork safe to eat?
Yes. While very low levels of chemical residues were found in the livers of some pigs, the levels were very low and a FSANZ risk assessment found there was a very low risk to public health and safety.
FSANZ’s risk assessment was conservative and found that exposure across all age groups was well below internationally set health-based guidance values for these chemicals.
Why have MRLs been set?
In Australia, if there is no MRL in the code for a given chemical/commodity combination, there is a zero tolerance approach to enforcement by local food enforcement agencies.
This means that foods with low level residues of agvet chemicals that do not have MRLs in the Code are technically in violation of the Code and are illegal to sell even if there are no safety issues.
Introducing these MRLs will allow certain pork commodities that inadvertently contain residues at low levels to be legally sold in Australia.
How do these chemicals end up in pigs?
Enforcement agencies are currently investigating how these chemicals are being used on farm to determine why residues have been found in livers.
How does FSANZ know that the proposed MRL is safe?
FSANZ conducted a dietary exposure assessment using the best available scientific data and internationally recognised risk assessment methodology.
The assessment indicates the limits set out in the proposal do not present any public health and safety concerns.
Are these MRLs permanent?
No. The APVMA will be reviewing the MRLs next year.
What is an MRL?
An MRL is the highest concentration of a chemical residue that is legally permitted or accepted in a food and is based on good agricultural and chemical use practices.
MRLs are regulatory standards that help to monitor whether an agricultural or veterinary chemical has been used as directed on an approved label.
Read more about MRLs and how they are set