Dr David Jukes, The University of Reading, UK

Providng access to food law since May 1996

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Last updated: 18 January, 2023

Pesticide Residues

Providing access to the EU and UK legislation

On this page:

  • Summary - Brief details of the chronology of developments linked to this topic
  • EU Legislation - Listing of Regulations covering the topic
  • UK Legislation - Listing of Regulations covering the topic


Legislation linked to the control of pesticides generally covers two linked issues: first, controls relating to their authorisation and use, and second, controls relating to the safety of the resulting residues.

'Plant Protection Products' (PPPs) is the term used in European Union legislation on the authorisation and use of pesticides. Initial controls were adopted by Directive 79/117 in December 1978. This provided a limited list of PPPs which were prohibited from use or severely restricted in their use. However, in 1991, Directive 91/414 was adopted which established a comprehensive system for the approval of PPPs. This was based on assessments by Member States but with defined EU procedures for cooperation and co-ordination. Approved substances were incorporated and listed in Annex I of the Directive. By 2011, the Directive had been amended over 150 times, primarily due to additions and amendments to Annex I. Consolidation of the legislation took place in 2009 with the adoption of Regulation 1107/2009 which came into effect in June 2011. The approved 'active substances' are now listed in a separate implementing measure, Regulation 540/2011 (which has been amended about 350 times). No additional details on the control and authorisation of PPPs is provided on this page - for more details, see the Commission page: Approval of active substances.

Maximum residue levels (MRLs) have been established to protect consumers from potentially harmful levels of PPPs resulting from their use. The first EU controls were in 1976 with the initial adoption of Directive 76/895 which fixed some MRLs for fruit and vegetables. This was followed in 1986 by the adoption of Directive 86/362 which created similar controls for cereals and by Directive 86/363 with controls for products of animal origin. Additional and more extensive controls were subsequently adopted by Directive 90/642 which provided more effective EU-wide controls and extended the MRLs to cover additional products of plant origin. These various controls had become complex to administer and were subject, as Directives, to different application and interpretation by Member States. Therefore, in February 2005, Regulation 396/2005 was adopted which repealed this set of Directives and replaced them with a unified EU-based system. The Regulation allocates specific roles to Member States, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Commission in the setting of MRLs. The comprehensive listing (in various Annexes) was not initially included in the Regulation but was subsequently added, extended and replaced by numerous amendments - this process continues.

Additional information can be found on the European Commission's page: Maximum Residue Levels. This gives access to the EU Pesticides Database. The database can be searched for Pesticide Residues. See also the European Food Safety Authority page: Pesticides.

EU Legislation

Framework Regulation:

Important Note: This Regulation has been amended nearly 200 times. The amendments are not listed here. At the time that this was last checked (December 2022), the latest consolidated version (as a pdf) was current (i.e. December 2022). It is a document with 3676 pages. It can be accessed from Regulation 396/2005 Consolidated Text. It is though recommended that use is made of the Commission's Pesticide Residues Database.


UK Legislation

Brexit: Prior to the IP Completion Day (31 December 2020), the legal requirements given in the EU Regulations listed above still applied to the UK. Since IP Completion Day, the EU Regulations above have been incorporated into UK legislation but with amendments to correct deficiencies. Information on this is given below. For more details of the process of incorporating EU legislation into UK law, see the separate page: UK Food Law: EU Legislation as Amended for the UK. Provisions for the enforcement of the controls (originally the EU Regulations but now as amended) have been provided in the UK Regulations listed below. For Northern Ireland, EU rules still apply.

Guidance: Provided by the Health and Safety Executive:

EU Legislation with links to amended for application in Great Britain:


Requirements for implementation and enforcement are provided for the four parts of the United Kingdom:

This page was first provided on 16 February 2021

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