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SAFEGUARDS | Food NO. 085/16

SafeGuardS sugar cane

On March 23, 2016, the European Union (EU) published Regulation (EC) 2016/440 in the Official Journal of the European Union. This regulation amended Annexes II, III, and V to Regulation (EC) No. 396/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards maximum residue levels for atrazine in or on certain products. It will come into effect in all Member States after October 13, 2016.

Atrazine is a herbicide, in the group of triazine, used to prevent pre-and postmergence broadleaf weeds in crops such as rice, maize, and sugarcane. Due to its high persistence in water and soil from excessive use, it leads to bioaccumulation through food chains that can affect human health. Atrazine is a suspected cause of cancer, birth defects, and interruption of hormone functions. Considering its toxicity, many countries and organizations around the world have established criteria for maximum residue limits (MRLs) for it.

In the EU, all existing authorizations for plant protection products containing atrazine have been revoked. As a result, the MRLs for this active substance, in Annex II and III, were deleted in accordance with Article 17 of Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 [1]. Under the same regulation, the European Commission (EC) requested that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) provide a reasoned opinion of the temporary MRLs of atrazine in cereals at 0.1 mg/kg, following an import tolerance request by Argentina. Based on the data of residue trials corresponding to Argentinean Good Agricultural Practices, EFSA concluded that MRLs of atrazine at the level of 0.05 mg/kg is more appropriate than 0.1 mg/kg in maize and consequently recommended to establish this MRL for all cereals. Furthermore, this level should be applied as the limit of determination for atrazine in products of plant origin because of no evidence to show European health risk [2]. Through the World Trade Organization (WTO), the trading partners of the EU were consulted on the proposed MRLs by EFSA and their comments have been taken into account.  Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 has been amended by Regulation (EC) 2016/440 [3].

  • Implement MRLs in the Annex of Regulation (EC) 2016/440 for specified food commodities as shown in Table 1

  • Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 shall continue to apply to products which were produced before October 13, 2016

  • Regulation (EC) No 2016/440 shall enter into force on the 20th day following that of its application in the Official Journal of European Union 

Table 1: MRLs of Atrazine in food commodities

Products MRLs(mg/kg)
Fresh & frozen fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, fungi, mosses, lichens, pulses, oilseeds, oil fruits, cereals, sugar, honey, and other apiculture products 0.05
Teas, coffee, herbal infusion, cocoa, carobs, hops, spices 0.1

What do the changes mean?

EU MRLs have the potential to affect agricultural producers and food manufacturers in all Member States and third countries. Atrazine residues in or on food products destined for EU must not exceed these new MRLs. For support in complying with this food safety regulation, producers should seek professional advice.

SGS is committed to keeping you informed of regulation news and developments. Leveraging our global network of laboratories and food experts, SGS provides a comprehensive range of food safety and quality solutions, including analytical tests, audits, certifications, inspections, and technical support. We continually invest in our testing, capability, and state-of-the art technology to help you reduce risk, improve food safety and quality. For further more information, please visit our website: www.foodsafety.sgs.com.

For enquiries, please contact:

Amornpun Dajsiripun
Global Competence Support Centre Food Specialist
t: +66 2683 0541 ext 2423

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