Codex Alimentarius

At the global level, maximum residue limits are established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), an international body which was set up in the 1960s by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the United Nations.

However, the CAC is not a regulatory authority; it does not grant authorisation for the use of plant protection products, and does not impose any standards. A Codex MRL (CXL) for a specific plant protection product in a given food or feed is therefore only legally binding in a country if this country has incorporated the CXL into its own legislation. A CXL is therefore primarily an international recommendation for a global MRL, with a view to eliminating unjustified international barriers to trade, and protecting the health of consumers.

Establishing a CXL is done in accordance with an 8-stage procedure which includes various rounds of discussion and commentary, assemblies and decisions. Codex Member States (including the EU and Belgium) are closely involved in this process. The risk assessment is carried out by the scientific advisory body JMPR (Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues), while the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR) is responsible for risk management and is involved in decision shaping.

In accordance with international conventions within the World Trade Organisation (WTO), possible different agricultural practices which are authorised outside the EU are taken into account when establishing an EU MRL, as is any existing CXL, so that any unnecessary barrier to trade between third countries and the EU can be avoided.

It should be stressed that the EU MRL, as established under Regulation 396/2005, always remains the prevailing legal standard for food and feed present on the market within the EU, even if the CXL differs from the EU MRL.