SAFEGUARDS | Food NO. 049/17

SafeGuardS fresh vegetables in basket

Maximum residue limits (MRLs) for Abamectin and Teflubenzuron proposed by the Pest Control Products Act of Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) for imported and sale of foods in Canada have been adopted by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and entered into force on February 13, 2017.

Over 800 compounds from a broad range of pesticide classes are widely used in the different stages of cultivation and post-harvest storage in order to protect crops against pests and fungi. Pesticide residues remaining in the food supply chain may pose a risk to human health, ranging from short-term illnesses to chronic diseases. To ensure safe food for consumers, in many countries, MRLs for these pesticides have been set and advised to governments by an independent organization.

Following the introduction of international Codex MRLs for Abamectin and Teflubenzuron in foodstuffs, Health Canada is concerned that these will lead a potential trade barrier. Therefore, Health Canada has proposed MRLs for both compounds as addressed in PMRL 2016-65 and PMR 2016-67, notifying the WTO in November 2016 in accordance with its Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) [1][2] of these changes. Recently, Canadian MRLs for Abamectin and Teflubenzuron have been adopted by WTO and placed into effect for various food commodities [3], [4] as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: MRLs for Abamectin and Teflubenzuron in various food commodities

Common Name Commodity Parts per million
Abamectin Caneberries 0.2
Green onions 0.01
Teflubenzuron Citrus oil 70
Mangoes, tomatoes 1.5
Pineapples 0.8
Green coffee beans, oranges 0.6
Papayas 0.5
Sunflower seeds 0.3
Broccoli 0.2
Dry soybeans 0.05
Corn oils (refined) 0.02
Cauliflower, field corn 0.01

Abamectin is classified in a group of macrocyclic lactone used to control insects and mites in animals and plants.  It is comprised of a mixture of avermectin B1a (at least 80%), avermectin B1b (not more than 20%), and its degradation product known as 8, 9-Z-avermectin B1a isomer. To express the results of Abamectin, all forms of avermectin need to combine. Teflubenzuron belongs to the benzoylurea group which inhibits chitin synthesis in the cuticle of insects. Due to its low toxicity in mammals and rapid degradation in soil and water, Teflubenzuron has increasingly been used in fruits and vegetables. Nevertheless, long-term toxicity effects should be considered. Nowadays, liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) is becoming one of the most powerful techniques to provide reliable results, at trace levels, for both compounds.

What do the changes mean?

This update has the potential to affect agricultural producers, food manufacturers, and pesticide manufacturers. The residue of Abamectin and Teflubenzuron on food products destined for Canada must not be found in excess of these MRLs. For support in complying with food safety regulations, food producer 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 more information, please visit our website:

For enquiries, please contact:

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

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