STC Number - 428

EU maximum residue levels for acrinathrin, metalaxyl and thiabendazole

Maintained by: European Union
Raised by: Peru
Supported by: Bolivia, Plurinational State of; Brazil; Colombia; Costa Rica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; Guatemala; Nigeria; United States of America
First date raised: November 2017 G/SPS/R/88, paras. 3.2-3.5
Dates subsequently raised: March 2018 (G/SPS/R/90, paras. 3.38-3.40)
Number of times subsequently raised: 1
Relevant documents: G/SPS/N/EU/174; G/SPS/GEN/1586; G/SPS/GEN/1494/Rev.1
Products covered: 07 Edible vegetables and certain roots and tubers; 08 Edible fruit and nuts; peel of citrus fruit or melons

Mango, Melon, Banana, Sweet Potato
Primary subject keyword: Food safety
Keywords: Food safety; Human health; Maximum residue limits (MRLs); International Standards / Harmonization; Risk assessment
Status: Not reported
Solution:
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In November 2017, Peru raised a concern over the European Union's lowering of MRLs for three pesticides, acrinathrin, metalaxyl and thiabendazole, under Regulation (EU) 2017/1164, which would enter into force on 21 January 2018. Peru stressed that imports of fruits and vegetables into the European Union would be affected, and highlighted the impact this already had on its mango production, as 62% of its exports were destined to the European Union. Peru requested a scientific justification for the measure, which would lower the MRLs for thiabendazole from 5 to 0.01mg/kg, a level more restrictive than the relevant Codex standard of 5mg/kg. Peru explained that the pesticides were used to protect fruits against diseases caused by fungi, in particular anthracnosis, and guarantee their shelf life. Peru presented document G/SPS/GEN/1586, which contained information about the measure's impact on Peruvian exports. Peru finally argued that the measure might be inconsistent with Articles 2 and 5 of the SPS Agreement.

Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nigeria, and the United States shared the concern raised by Peru. The United States indicated a particular interest because for sweet potato the thiabendazole MRL would be lowered from 15mg/kg to the default level of 0.01mg/kg, due to a lack of residue trial data on sweet potato. The data was being generated and would be submitted at the earliest possible. The United States explained that no risk to consumers had been identified, and that thiabendazole was used as an emergency crop protection tool to manage black rot for which no viable alternative existed. Without an adequate MRL to support exports to the European Union, sweet potato growers would either lose market access or risk a black rot outbreak, which could be devastating to the industry and result in unnecessary food waste. The United States planned to submit an import tolerance application and requested an expedited review.

Colombia emphasized the effect the measure would have on its banana and melon exports. The Dominican Republic requested an explanation of the measure under Article 5.8 of the SPS Agreement because of the measure's impact on mango trade. Costa Rica urged the European Union to consider the Codex MRL for thiabendazole. Members underlined the importance of basing measures on risk assessment and scientific evidence and emphasized that Codex was the reference as the relevant international standard.

The European Union explained that the proposed MRLs were based on the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) identification of dietary intake concerns and data gaps in their assessment of MRLs for thiabendazole in mangoes. The European Union reported that comments received from Members in response to notification G/SPS/N/EU/174 had not presented specific new data for re-evaluation and invited Members to apply for import tolerances for affected products accompanied by substantial new data addressing EFSA's concerns. The European Union noted that some mango producing countries had replaced thiabendazole with alternative substances. Finally the European Union reminded Members that it had provided an information note in June 2016 on the on-going review of EU MRLs, which had been updated in June 2017. It was available on the European Commission webpage on pesticides, and had been circulated as document G/SPS/GEN/1494/Rev.1.

In March 2018, Peru reiterated its concern regarding the lowering of EU MRLs for acrinathrin, metalaxyl and thiabendazole under Regulation (EU) 2017/1164, which had entered into force on 21 January 2018. Peru emphasized the negative impact of this measure on its fruit and vegetable exports to the European Union. In particular, Peru highlighted its concerns with EFSA's categorization of mango, which had led to more restrictive EU MRLs being applied than the Codex standard of 5mg/kg. Peru requested that the European Union review this measure which it viewed as more trade restrictive than necessary, without scientific basis and inconsistent with Articles 2 and 5 of the SPS Agreement.

Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and the United States shared the concern raised by Peru, underlining the importance of basing measures on scientific evidence and using Codex standards. The United States expressed its disappointment with the European Union's decision to lower the thiabendazole MRL on sweet potatoes to 0.01mg/kg, even though no risk to consumers had been identified and confirmatory residue trial data were under development for submission. The United States requested clarification on the European Union's process, including the time-frame, for considering comments submitted by Members. In particular, the United States highlighted the short timing between its submission of comments, in response to the EU notification, and the subsequent vote by EU member States on thiabendazole MRLs, a few days later. The United States further noted that sweet potato growers would face great difficulties in exporting to the European Union and in controlling black rot during the time that it would take the European Union to re-establish an import tolerance. The United States indicated that it planned to submit an import tolerance application and hoped that the EU would consider an expedited review.

The European Union recalled its previous intervention in the November 2017 SPS Committee, explaining that the proposed MRLs were based on EFSA's identification of dietary intake concerns and data gaps in their assessment of MRLs for thiabendazole in mangoes. The European Union reported that comments received from Members in response to notification G/SPS/N/EU/174 had not presented specific new data for re-evaluation and invited Members to apply for import tolerances for affected products accompanied by substantial new data addressing EFSA's concerns. The European Union also indicated that the Standing Committee had discussed the concerns of trading partners, including whether processing factors could be applied for mangoes; however, it concluded that there was insufficient data or justification for further action. The European Union noted that there were other available plant protection products which could replace thiabendazole, and that a list of these possible alternatives had been transmitted to some interested trading partners. This list could also be made available to other Members. Finally, the European Union reminded Members that it had provided an information note in 2016 on the ongoing review of EU MRLs, which had been updated in June 2017 (G/SPS/GEN/1494/Rev.1), and urged Members to make their concerns known as early as possible in the process.