National Residue Survey 2017–18 Seafood


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NRS 2017-18 Industry brochure: Seafood PDF 4231 KB

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Key points

  • In 2017–18, the overall compliance rate against Australian standards was 100 percent for both aquaculture and wild-caught samples.
  • Australian seafood producers continue to demonstrate a high degree of good catching, growing and processing practice.
  • The National Residue Survey is certified to ISO 9001 Quality Management System.

The National Residue Survey (NRS) is an operational unit within the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and since 1992 has been funded by industries through levies or contracted by direct funding.

The NRS is an essential part of Australia’s pesticide and veterinary medicine residue management framework providing verification of good agricultural and seafood practice in support of chemical control-of-use legislation and guidelines.

NRS residue monitoring programs monitor the levels of, and associated risks from, pesticides and veterinary medicine residues in Australian food products. The programs help to facilitate and encourage ongoing access to domestic and export markets. NRS supports Australia’s primary producers and food processors who provide quality animal, grain and horticulture products which meet both Australian and relevant international standards.

Seafood program overview

The seafood program has been operating since the early 1990s and is currently funded through the Commonwealth Fisheries Association. The program involves the testing of Australian aquaculture and wild-caught seafood products for a range of pesticides, veterinary medicines and environmental contaminants.

The program ensures seafood exports satisfy Australian export certification and importing country requirements. In addition, the program supports industry quality assurance initiatives and enables domestic seafood processing facilities to satisfy state and territory government regulatory authority licensing requirements.

Sample collection

The number of samples collected is based on Australian production levels and/or overseas export market requirements.

Formal requests are sent to government-approved officers to obtain a random selection of samples at specified times from aquaculture farms or processing establishments.

Analytical screens

Analytical screens covering pesticides, veterinary medicines and environmental contaminants are developed in consultation with the industry and take into account Australian registered chemicals, chemical residue profiles and overseas market requirements.

Seafood samples are screened for a range of chemicals, as outlined in Table 1.

TABLE 1 Analytical screens for the seafood program
Chemical groupAnalytical screen
Veterinary drugs/ pesticidesAnthelmintics (including macrocyclic lactones)
Antimicrobials (including aminoglycosides, beta lactams, macrolides, nitrofurans, nitroimidazoles, phenicols, sulfonamides, tetracyclines, quinolones)
Hormones (including stilbenes, androgenic steroids)
Environmental contaminants and additivesOrganochlorines (aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, DDT, endrin, HCB, HCH, heptachlor, lindane, mirex, toxaphene and PCBs)
Metals (antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury)
Dyes (crystal violet, malachite green, brilliant green, methylene blue and victoria blue)


In 2017–18, a total of 195 aquaculture and 100 wild caught samples was collected for analysis. The results were compared against Australian standards and where relevant, international standards.

A summary of compliance rates against Australian standards over the past five years is provided in Table 2. The results highlight an excellent compliance status against Australian standards and demonstrate the strong commitment of the seafood industry to good catching, growing and processing practice. The consistently high compliance rates help maintain the reputation and integrity of Australian seafood in domestic and international markets.

TABLE 2 Compliance rates over the past five years
YearsOriginCompliance rates (%)

Laboratory selection and performance

The NRS contracts laboratories to analyse animal and plant product samples for pesticide/veterinary medicine residues and environmental contaminants.

Laboratories are selected through the Australian Government tendering process on the basis of their proficiency and value for money. Laboratories must be accredited to international standard ISO/ IEC 17025 at commencement of testing.

Contracted laboratories are proficiency tested by the NRS to ensure the validity of their analytical results and technical competence. The NRS has been accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities as a proficiency test provider since July 2005.

International export markets

The NRS maintains a database of maximum residue limits (MRLs) established for Australia and major export markets for industries supported by the NRS. All analysis results are checked for compliance against Australian standards and relevant international MRLs.

Australian MRL standard can be accessed at and MRL requirements for international export markets can be found at

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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