National Residue Survey 2017–18 Annual summary


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NRS 2017-18 Industry brochure: Summary PDF4214 KB

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Key points

  • Australian primary producers continue to demonstrate a high degree of compliance with Australian standards.
  • There has been excellent industry participation and engagement with a range of animal and plant industries over a number of years.
  • 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.

NRS programs overview

NRS programs take into account importing country requirements and are developed in consultation with participating industries and the department. NRS programs cover a range of commodities including:

  • meat: cattle, sheep, pigs, chicken, goat, horse, kangaroo, wild boar, poultry (duck, turkey, spatchcock, quail), deer, camel, emu, buffalo and ostrich
  • hen eggs
  • honey
  • aquatic animals: aquaculture and wild-caught seafood
  • cereal grains: wheat, barley, oat, maize, sorghum and triticale
  • pulses: chickpea, cow pea, pigeon pea, field pea, faba bean, lentil, lupin, navy bean, mung bean and vetch
  • oilseeds: canola seeds, sunflower seeds, soybean, safflower seeds, linseed
  • horticulture: citrus, pome fruits (apple and pear), cherry, stone fruits (apricot, nectarine, peach and plum) and macadamia nuts.

The key elements of each program include the selection of a chemicals-commodity combination, sampling rates, program design and sampling procedures. There are other supporting elements including the procurement of contract laboratories, monitoring ongoing proficiency of the contracted laboratories, coordinating traceback activities when required and providing results and reports to program participants.

The programs assist the participating industries by:

  • ensuring products satisfy Australian export certification and importing country requirements
  • supporting quality assurance initiatives
  • enabling domestic meat processing facilities to satisfy the licensing requirement of each state and territory
  • providing residue monitoring data to support specific market access requirements
  • providing independent, authoritative and technically sound residue data, reports and advice.


In 2017–18, a total of 9,729 samples was collected from animal food products and analysed for a range of pesticides, veterinary drug residues and environmental contaminants. For plant products, 6,798 samples were collected and analysed for a range of pesticide residues, contaminants and microorganisms. The results were compared against Australian standards and where relevant, international standards.

A summary of compliance rates against Australian standards for animal and plant products for 2017–18 is provided in Table 1 and Table 2 respectively. The results highlight a high degree of compliance with Australian standards and help maintain the reputation and integrity of Australian produce in domestic and international markets.

TABLE 1 Summary of compliance rates for animal food products against Australian standards for 2017–18
CommoditySamples collectedCompliance rates (%)
Game Deer10100
Hen eggs16099.4
Poultry (other than meat chicken and hen eggs)47100
Wild boar5096
Aquaculture 195100
Wild-caught seafood100100
TABLE 2 A summary of compliance rates for plant products against Australian standards for 2017–18
CommoditySamples collectedCompliance rates (%)
Pome fruit33194.3
Stone fruits33100
Macadamia nuts123100

Actions taken when residues are detected

A traceback investigation can be undertaken following the detection of residues at levels above the Australian standards or that of an overseas market. These investigations are undertaken by the responsible state or territory agency in accordance with their control-of-use legislation.

Once the source and cause for the residue has been established, the responsible state or territory agency will provide advice to the producer to prevent future recurrence, and regulatory action may be taken.

All traceback activities and findings are reported to the NRS. Where appropriate, the findings are forwarded to participating industries and government authorities such as the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) for consideration during its chemical review process. Providing feedback to participating industries is important for improving chemical use and on-farm agricultural practices.

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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