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  • 12.7.2-QUALITY CONTROL ISSUES-PESTICIDES - MAXIMUM RESIDUE LEVELS OR MRL'S IN THE EUROPEAN UNION

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  • Pesticides - Maximum Residue Levels or MRL's in the European Union

     
     

    The importance of the previous topic is emphasized by the fact that on September 2nd 2008 European Union Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 came into force for a large number of commodities, including green coffee beans. The Regulation harmonizes what was previously a highly fragmented number of national standards, applied by individual countries. This development is to be welcomed as it simplifies the trade in green coffee by ensuring that all stakeholders depart from the same assertions.

    It is important to note that the EU works on the basis that MRL's for active substances are set at very low default levels (currently 0,01 mg/kg) unless users provide justification to set them higher. The coffee trade has provided as much information as was obtained from producing countries to ensure that MRL's relevant to coffee were set at realistic levels. At this stage it is however not known whether all active substances used by different producing countries have in fact been so identified and assessed as not all countries provided such information.

    However, the general consensus is that the new legislation should not adversely affect the trade in green coffee although the cost and frequency of future inspections by EU Authorities of arrivals in EU ports remains to be established. It should also be noted that from a contractual point of view green coffee refused entry for exceeding the Maximum Residue Level requirements can be considered as not merchantable and therefore not in compliance with contractual obligations.

    An MRL database is provided on http://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/protection/pesticides/database_pesticide_en.htm - look for product reference 0620000 for the list of MRL's currently applicable to coffee beans.

    Other information sites are:

    Pesticide Residue Legislation

    Approval of active substances

    EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) model

    NB:

    EU regulations quote permissible MRL’s per kilogram whereas other countries/systems may express such limits in terms of, for example, parts per million or per billion. The comparison below is provided for ease of reference.

    A mass concentration of 

    2 mg/kg 

    2 parts per million 

    2 ppm 

    A mass concentration of 

    2 µg/kg 

    2 parts per billion 

    2 ppb 

    mg = milligram - µg = microgram