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2015 Joint FAO/WHO meeting on pesticide residues

Geneva, 15-24 September


The Joint FAO/WHO meeting on pesticide residues (JMPR) is an international expert scientific group administered jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

JMPR has met regularly since 1963 and is responsible for the safety risk assessment of pesticide residues in food and feed. To ensure the integrity of the international safety assessment of pesticides, JMPR consists of experts who attend as independent internationally recognized specialists and act in a personal capacity and not as representatives of national governments.

What are Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs)?

The outcome of the JMPR assessment provides the scientific basis for the establishment of maximum residue limits for pesticides (MRLs) for food and feed moving in international trade by the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR), a subsidiary body of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), who adopts the recommended MRLs from CCPR as Codex MRLs (CXLs) for pesticides.

In addition, following the JMPR safety assessment, CCPR may also recommend extraneous maximum residue limits for pesticides (EMRLs) for adoption by CAC for pesticides that are no longer used in agriculture but remain in the environment due to former agricultural uses and may contaminate the food or feed. It is the maximum concentration of a pesticide residue that is recommended by the CAC to be legally permitted or recognised as acceptable in or on a food or animal feed.

JMPR and the Codex Alimentarius Commission

The Codex Alimentarius Commission is an intergovernmental body established by FAO and WHO in 1963 to set international food quality and safety standards to protect consumers’ health and to ensure fair practices in the food trade. The Commission is currently made-up of 186 Member countries (including one Member Organization, the European Union). The standards adopted by CAC, including safety standards such as CXLs, follow a eight-step procedure which provides opportunity for discussion and comments by national governments and other interested international organizations having observer status in Codex.

CXLs are therefore the maximum concentration of a pesticide residue recommended by the Codex Alimentarius Commission to be legally permitted in or on food commodities and animal feeds. As CXLs are based on the JMPR safety assessment, which includes toxicological assessment of the pesticides and its residue and the review of residue data from supervised trials and supervised uses reflecting national good agricultural practices (GAPs), foods that comply with the respective CXLs are intended to be toxicologically acceptable and therefore safe for human consumption.

2015 JMPR Meeting

The Agenda included toxicological and/or residue evaluation/re-evaluation for over 30 selected pesticides some of them within the periodic review program (toxicological and residue re-evaluation of pesticides which last review took place within the past 15 years in accordance with the Risk Analysis Principles applied by CCPR).

The Meeting also considered responses to specific concerns raised by CCPR at its 46th Session (April 2015) as well as other general considerations such as the classification as “probably carcinogenic to humans” of diazinon, glyphosate and malathion from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an specialized cancer agency of WHO.

Given that the last full assessments of diazinon, glyphosate and malathion were completed more than a decade ago, and given the number of new studies available since then, JMPR has recommended the re-evaluation of these compounds which will take place in an additional JMPR meeting to be held in 2016.

2015 JMPR outcomes – 2016 CCPR considerations

The outputs of the toxicological and/or residue evaluation/re-evaluation as well as the replies to specific concerns will be examined by the 48th Session of CCPR in April 2016 for the establishment of new and/or revised CXLs as well as the conversion of CXLs into EMRLs.

Some highlights from the 2015 JMPR

Gracia Brisco, Food Standards Officer, Codex Secretariat, with responsibility for CCPR attended the Meeting:

“This year, in addition to the regular business of evaluating/re-evaluating pesticides for the establishment of new and/or revised CXLs, JMPR considered the conversion of CXLs for lindane into EMRLs at the request of CCPR due to the listing of this compound as an organic persistent pollutant (POP) by the Stockholm Convention, this re-assures Codex members and the general public that CXLs are only set for pesticides that are safe for use in crop protection and so for human consumption.
The agricultural uses of glyphosate and the other pesticides classified by IARC as “probably carcinogenic for humans” and how this could impact on existing CXLs for these compounds will be considered by CCPR following the outcome of the extra JMPR meeting that will be convened to review these compounds.”

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©FAO/Pius Ekepi / FAO

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