Food safety

About the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR)

Introduction

The Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) is an international expert scientific group that is administered jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). JMPR, which consists of the FAO Panel of Experts on Pesticide Residues in Food and the Environment and the WHO Core Assessment Group, has been meeting regularly since 1963. During the Meetings, the FAO Panel of Experts is responsible for reviewing residue and analytical aspects of the pesticides under consideration, including data on their metabolism, fate in the environment, and use patterns, and for estimating the maximum residue levels that might occur as a result of the use of the pesticides according to good agricultural practices. The WHO Core Assessment Group is responsible for reviewing toxicological and related data and for estimating, where possible, acceptable daily intakes (ADIs) for humans of the pesticides under consideration.

History and Background

In 1961, a Joint Meeting of the FAO Panel of Experts on the Use of Pesticides in Agriculture and the WHO Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues was convened. The Meeting recommended to the Directors-General of FAO and WHO that the 'toxicological and other pertinent data . . . . on those pesticides known to leave residues in food when used according to good agricultural practice' should be evaluated. The evaluations would include the estimate of an ADI and an explanation of its derivation.

To implement this recommendation the first JMPR was convened in 1963. In 1966, JMPR considered both ADIs and maximum residue limits for the first time. Joint Meetings are held yearly, and since 1963 approximately 230 pesticides have been evaluated, many of them on several occasions.

Purpose

JMPR serves as a scientific advisory body to FAO, WHO, to FAO and WHO member governments, and to the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Advice to the Codex Alimentarius Commission on pesticides is provided via the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR).

All countries need to have access to reliable risk assessments of chemicals in food, but relatively few have the expertise and funds available to carry out separate risk assessments on large numbers of chemicals. JMPR performs a vital function in providing a reliable source of advice, and some countries use information from JMPR in formulating their own regulatory programmes. In the same way, CCPR provides advice, based on the evaluations of JMPR, on appropriate standards for pesticide residues in food.

A particularly important aspect of the work of Codex Committees results from the agreement, as a result of the Uruguay Round in which the World Trade Organization (WTO) succeeded the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, that scientific, risk-based standards established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission should be employed under terms of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement to address fair trade practices. Governments wishing to argue particular cases at WTO are likely, therefore, to turn increasingly to Codex, and through Codex to JMPR and other scientific bodies, for advice on their own legislation.

Membership

FAO and WHO have complementary functions in selecting members for JMPR. FAO is respons­ible for selecting members to deal with residue and analytical aspects, while WHO is responsible for selecting members to deal with the toxicological evaluations of the substances under consideration. The selection of members, who serve in their individual capacities as experts, is made only after a careful consideration of the scientific credentials of the various candidates. A balance of scientific expertise and other experience is considered essential. FAO and WHO meet the costs of experts' attendance at Joint Meetings.

Evaluations

JMPR establishes ADIs and acute reference doses on the basis of the toxicological data and related information available on the substances that are being evaluated. In addition, JMPR reviews pesticide use patterns, data on the chemistry and composition of pesticides and methods of analysis of pesticide residues, and recommends maximum residue limits (MRLs) for pesticides that occur in food commodities following their use according to Good Agricultural Practice. The potential intake of pesticide residues is compared with the ADI and acute reference dose to estimate the potential dietary risks associated with the adoption of the MRLs.

In recent years, the scope of the toxicological evaluations has been expanded to include assessment of other routes of exposure that are relevant for public and occupational health. In addition, some environmental hazard assessments have been performed.

In addition to reviewing individual chemicals, JMPR develops general principles for assessing the safety of chemicals in food. The requirement to keep abreast of scientific disciplines requires continuing review and updating of evaluation procedures. JMPR participants are also expected to conduct extensive literature searches on substances they are considering in addition to reviewing the information submitted by sponsors of the chemicals under review.

Reports and Publications

The conclusions of Joint Meetings are summarized in reports published in the FAO Plant Production and Protection Paper series. Reports reflect the agreed view of the Committee as a whole and describe the basis for the conclusions.

Toxicological monographs are published after the meetings by WHO. These summarize the data used in the Meeting's evaluations and provide full references to the relevant literature. Most of the monographs that have been published are available on INCHEM.

Residues monographs, which contain information on pesticide use patterns, data on the chemistry and composition of pesticides, methods of analysis for pesticide residues, and information on MRLs is published in the FAO Plant Production and Protection Paper series.

Throughout its existence JMPR has continued to develop principles for the safety assessment of chemicals in food. To improve the consistency and quality of its decision-making process, the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) sponsored the publication of Environmental Health Criteria No.104, which consolidated and updated the Meetings's principles for the safety assessment of pesticide residues to the late 1980s. Principles developed since that time have been included in recent reports. A project has been initiated to update and consolidate principles for the assessment of food additives, contaminants, and residues of veterinary drugs in food (by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives), and pesticide residues in food.

Further information on JMPR is available at both the FAO and WHO web sites.

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