Maximum residue levels: Fact or fiction?

Kieran Hyder, Kim Z. Travis, Zoe K. Welsh, Ian Pate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Maximum residue levels (MRLs) are trading standards that represent the maximum residue that could be found if a crop protection product (CPP) is applied according to critical good agricultural practice (cGAP). Foodstuffs are monitored for MRL compliance and exceedence can have economic, social and political consequences. There is a trade-off when calculating MRLs, as low MRLs prevent misuse of CPPs and high MRLs prevent an 'unlucky' fanner exceeding the MRL by chance. Chance exceedence has not been previously investigated despite the high probability of exceedence due to small data sets and calculation method. In this study, MRL calculation methods were investigated and policy for using these methods to control chance exceedence was defined. The shape and parameters of the residue distribution, LOQ and number of trials all affected the accuracy and precision of the estimated MRL. The two European methods were least accurate and precise at small numbers of trials and high CVs, with up to four different MRLs possible. Eight to 16 trials gave the best estimate of the MRL, but exceedence by chance could occur in up to 45% of samples. Policy was defined for using existing methods, and involved calculation of the MRL by both methods and taking the highest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-740
Number of pages20
JournalHuman and Ecological Risk Assessment
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2003


  • Crop protection product
  • EU regulation
  • Maximum residue levels (MRLs)
  • Residues
  • Setting MRLs
  • Simulation modelling

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