Maximum Residue Limits for Pesticides
As part of the assessment process prior to the registration of a pesticide, Health Canada must determine whether the consumption of the maximum amount of residues, that are expected to remain on food products when a pesticide is used according to label directions, will not be a concern to human health. This maximum amount of residues expected is then legally established as a maximum residue limit (MRL) and is regulated under the Pest Control Products Act.
Health Canada sets science-based MRLs to ensure the food Canadians eat is safe. The MRLs set for each pesticide-crop combination are set at levels well below the amount that could pose a health concern. Typically, an MRL applies to the identified raw agricultural food commodity as well as to any processed food product that contains it. However, where a processed product may require a higher MRL than that specified for its raw agricultural commodity, separate MRLs are specified. If it is determined that an unacceptable risk exists, the product will not be permitted for sale or use in Canada.
As Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide encourages Canadians to include a large amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets, MRLs are important to ensure that pesticides are being used properly so that Canadians have access to a safe food supply.
MRLs Regulated under the Pest Control Products Act
Previously, all proposed MRLs (published via the PMRL Series) were legally in effect as of the publication date of the corresponding Established MRL (EMRL Series).
While the PMRL Series will continue to be published under Consultations on the Health Canada website, the EMRL Series will no longer be published. Instead, the EMRL Series has been replaced with the MRL Database, an online query application that allows users to search for established MRLs, regulated under the Pest Control Products Act, both for pesticides or food commodities.
Once the consultation period for the PMRL is closed, the established MRLs will be legally in effect as of the date that they are entered into the MRL database. Should comments be received, they will be addressed in a separate document that will be linked from the published PMRL.
The changes noted above will result in a more efficient means of establishing, revising and revoking pesticide MRLs without adversely impacting food safety as well as making available a searchable database of established Canadian MRLs.
Please note that a complete list of the residue definitions upon which all chemical MRLs are based is also available on the Health Canada website.
Health Canada’s MRL Database was updated in the winter of 2022. In the previous version of the database, MRLs were established on a pesticide-commodity basis only. The new version now enables Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) to establish MRLs using the following pesticide-food commodity combinations:
- Pesticide – Crop/Commodity
- Pesticide – Crop subgroup
- Pesticide – Crop group
Each of the above pesticide-food commodity combinations can now be searched using this new version of the MRL Database.
Note: In the absence of a specific MRL for a pesticide/crop group, crop subgroup or food commodity, residues must not exceed 0.1 ppm, commonly known as the General MRL or Default MRL, as set out in subsection B.15.002(1) of the Food and Drug Regulations.
For more information, please contact the Health Canada Pest Management Information Service.
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