MRLs, human health, and food safety:  MRLs outside of Canada

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Differences between countries

In some countries, maximum residue limits (MRLs) are called maximum residue levels, or tolerances. MRLs may also vary from one country to another for several reasons, including:

Health Canada works collaboratively, when possible, with international regulatory authorities. Each regulatory authority considers the available scientific information, but they each do their own risk assessments. This is because each authority considers their country-specific legislation, policies and conditions of use. Regulatory decisions on pesticide registrations and MRLs may differ from country to country for these reasons.

For example, Canada works with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, who is responsible for:

The US establishes tolerances after reviewing the same residue chemistry data requirements as Canada. They also use the OECD MRL Calculator.

Learn more about:

International science cooperation

One of Health Canada’s most important scientific collaborators is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Jointly, Health Canada participates in and contributes to:

Health Canada works with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). These organizations created the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 1963 to develop food standards, guidelines, and related texts. These include codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. The programme seeks to:

The Codex Alimentarius Commission develops international food safety standards based on risk analysis principles.

Before establishing a Codex MRL the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues must:

Learn more about:

International trade and imports

To facilitate trade, Canadian MRLs are aligned to the extent possible with the Codex Alimentarius and US tolerances. This helps Canada to import and export food products.

Canada cannot grow food all year round in all parts of the country. This means Canada must import some foods to maintain reliable access to affordable and a variety of nutritious food. Before food is imported, it must comply with the same Health Canada requirements for protection of human health as the food grown in Canada.

The food we import can come from countries that have different:

Often, pests can multiply faster and cause more damage to food or crops when they live in warmer climates compared to Canada.

Importing food allows for:

International consultation on the proposed MRL also happens as a result of Canada notifying the World Trade Organization. Canada’s Notification Authority and Enquiry Point coordinates this to comply with Canada’s international trade obligations.

Canada’s Notification Authority and Enquiry Point


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