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Growers urged to comply with harmonised food safety standards

AUSVEG is calling all direct suppliers to Australia’s major retailers, including growers, to ensure they comply with the new Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme (HARPS) before the deadline of 1 January 2018.

The call to action comes as the deadline approaches and to help growers along with the wider industry understand about the rollout of HARPS and the requirements of direct suppliers to comply with the new streamlined food safety scheme.

HARPS is an industry-funded initiative to align the food safety requirements of Australia’s major retailers. It aims to reduce the costs and stress associated with the adoption, maintenance and auditing of multiple food safety systems by individual direct suppliers to multiple retail customers in Australia. It has been funded by Hort Innovation using horticulture industry levies and Government funds and is managed by a Project Team, including the Produce Marketing Association Australia-New Zealand (PMA A-NZ).

The retailers that have developed and recognise HARPS are ALDI, Coles, Costco, Metcash (IGA) and Woolworths.

“There seems to be confusion among some growers about who needs to comply with HARPS and the time frame for achieving compliance,” said AUSVEG Environment Coordinator Andrew Shaw.

“Direct suppliers who have a direct commercial relationship with one or more of the major Australian retailers need to achieve compliance to one of four base schemes plus the elements of HARPS by 1 January 2018.

“Furthermore, a subcontractor or co-packer who packs to a retailer specification for another business that then supplies one or more of the five chain retailers, is also a direct supplier and is required to be compliant to one of the base schemes plus HARPS by 1 January 2018.

“Indirect suppliers, who are growers supplying product for further handling and/or packing by a direct supplier and then to one or more of the five chain retailers, are not required to implement HARPS. However, indirect suppliers are required to be certified to one of the four base schemes a year later, by 1 January 2019.”

The base schemes are all Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarked standards (GLOBALG.A.P., BRC or SQF) and Freshcare, which is in the process of achieving a GFSI benchmarked status. GFSI represents global best-practice in managing food safety hazards. Direct suppliers commenced transitioning to their chosen base scheme plus HARPS from October 2016 and over 400 audits have now been undertaken.

“HARPS will benefit the entire Australian fresh produce industry, including growers and the supply chain. Reducing the time and cost burden of multiple food safety audits for different retailers will allow growers to focus on supplying the highest quality and safe fresh produce with less onerous compliance requirements,” said Mr Shaw.

“It is important to have quality assurance in place in order to maintain the safe, high quality standards of Australian producers and it is important for direct suppliers to comply with HARPS before January 2017.”

Source: AUSVEG

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