HARPS, harmonising fresh food safety certification

Excerpts from Richard Bennett, Head of Food Safety & Technology, PMA A-NZ & Fresh Produce Safety Centre A-NZ

HIA have been working with the major grocery retailers and certification bodies in Australia to create a new food safety standard -  (HARPS). In the past producers who supplied multiple different retail chains had to provide certification through multiple schemes, proving both costly and time consuming.  HARPS links in with participating standards and systems allowing growers and packers to complete a single audit (in two parts) against a single standard.  It reduces duplication between food standards including Freshcare, GlobalG.A.P. BRC and SQF. The project has been supported by ALDI, Coles Supermarkets, Costco, Metcash (IGA), Woolworths, as well as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC).

The new arrangement is fairly simple. Direct suppliers are required to be certified to the standard in one of four globally recognised schemes (BRC, Freshcare, GLOBALG.A.P. or SQF). The standard chosen is referred to as the base standard. The HARPS standard is audited at the same time as the base standard. All participating retailers are now accepting direct suppliers certified against the appropriate base standard plus the HARPS standard.

Direct suppliers to the chain retailers are growers, grower-packers and wholesalers/brokers who pack into retailer-branded packaging and/or invoice the retailer. This includes sub-contract packers and co-packers. Retailer-branded packaging includes crates, cartons, bins and other packaging that bears the retailer’s name on tags, labels or film or the package itself.

HARPS applies to whole fruit, whole vegetables and nuts-in-shell. HARPS does not apply to processed or value-added lines. Direct suppliers are required to be certified to their base standard plus the HARPS standard by 1st January 2018, so all direct supplier audits being conducted in 2017 must include the HARPS standard.

Indirect suppliers are those who supply product to direct suppliers on its way to the five chain retailers. This includes growers supplying packers, and packers who are not packing into retailer-branded packaging. From 1st January 2019, indirect suppliers will be required to be certified to one of the four base standards (BRC, Freshcare, GLOBALG.A.P. or SQF). Codex HACCP will no longer be accepted. Indirect suppliers are not required to be certified to the HARPS standard but can do so if they wish.

HARPS is managed by PMA Australia-New Zealand, with the Project Team, led by Kitchener Partners, actively engaged with a range of stakeholders. For further information on HARPS, including the standard, the scheme rules, a comprehensive Q&A, a pre-audit checklist, a comments page and a free call number, go to the HARPS website.

Last updated: 11 July 2017