National Residue Survey 2018–19 Annual summary


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NRS 2018-19 Industry brochure: Summary PDF 4 1.2 MB

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Key points

  • Australian primary producers continue to demonstrate a high degree of compliance with Australian standards.
  • The National Residue Survey has excellent industry participation and engagement spanning 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 since 1992 has been funded by industries through levies and direct contracts.

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 and contaminants 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:

  • meat: cattle, sheep, pigs, chicken, goat, horse, kangaroo, wild boar, poultry (duck, turkey, spatchcock, quail), deer, camel, emu, buffalo and ostrich
  • hen eggs
  • honey
  • 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 soybean and vetch
  • oilseeds: canola seeds, sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, linseed
  • horticulture: citrus, pome fruits (apple and pear), cherry, almonds and macadamia nuts.

The key elements of each program are the selection of a chemicals-commodity combination, sampling rates, program design and sampling procedures. Other NRS supporting activities including the NRS quality management system, 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 2018–19,  9,952 samples were collected from animal food products and 5,241 samples were collected from plant products and analysed for a range of pesticide residues, contaminants and microorganisms. The results were compared with Australian standards and where relevant, international standards.

A summary of animal and plant products’ compliance with Australian standards for 2018–19 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.

The yearly summary datasets for NRS programs are located on the department’s website.

Table 1. Summary of compliance rates for animal food products in 2018–19, relative to Australian standards
Commodity Samples collected Compliance rates (%)
Beef 4,877 99.94
Buffalo 0 NA
Camel 15 100
Chicken 301 100
Deer 19 100
Game Deer 10 100
Hen eggs 160 100
Emu 9 88.89
Goat 123 99.64
Honey 126 100
Horse 175 99.43
Kangaroo 50 100
Ostrich 3 100
Ovine 2,589 99.73
Pigs 1,000 99.40
Poultry (other than meat chicken and hen eggs) 46 97.83
Wild boar 7 100
Aquaculture 191 99.48
Wild-caught seafood 100 100
Total 9,952 99.79
Table 2. A summary of compliance rates for plant products 2018–19, relative to Australian standards
Commodity Samples collected Compliance rates (%)
Grains 4,259 98.9
Pome fruit 322 98.4
Citrus# 408 98.1
Cherry 54 90.7
Almond 70 98.6
Macadamia nuts 128 100
Total* 5241 99.2

# Citrus numbers represent 2018 calendar year. All other data represents financial year 2018-19.
* Totals include samples finalised after publication of the department’s annual report.

Actions taken for residues above the Australian standards

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 with Australian standards and relevant international MRLs.

For the Australian MRL standard see

For MRL requirements for some international export markets see 

Last reviewed: 17 December 2019
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