If you can’t find the answer to your question here, please head over to our Contact page and send us an enquiry.
What is the aim of the Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme?
HARPS will reduce the costs (and stress!) associated with the adoption, maintenance and auditing of multiple food safety systems by individual suppliers to multiple retail customers in Australia. One audit visit, against a base scheme plus HARPS, means a direct vendor can supply multiple retail customers. Note that retailers always reserve the right to decide who they source from.
Why is HARPS being introduced?
Australia’s five leading grocery retailers (ALDI, Coles, Costco, Metcash (IGA) and Woolworths) have had different food safety system requirements of their vendors. For suppliers to multiple retailers, this means numerous standards being audited, mostly but not necessarily concurrently. The need to implement, maintain and be audited to multiple systems that are largely similar, including bespoke additional requirements, is time consuming, stressful and expensive. Furthermore, the availability of auditors is under pressure because many auditors also find the process of auditing multiple systems to be stressful and complex. By having one audit, to a base scheme plus HARPS, to supply all retail customers, this initiative will lower the cost of doing business, provide greater efficiencies in quality assurance and improve food safety outcomes across the entire fresh produce supply chain. It will also have positive outcomes for the certification sector such as greater auditor retention.
Who operates / manages the Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme?
Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited (HIA) initiated the project in August 2012 at the request of industry. The Produce Marketing Association Australia-New Zealand (PMA A-NZ) is the agreed entity accountable for the ongoing management and facilitation of the scheme on behalf of the Stakeholder Working Group. The Stakeholder Working Group comprises representatives of the participating retailers. Management of HARPS is currently transitioning from the project consultants to PMA A-NZ. The transition will be concluded at the end of the HIA project to implement the scheme.
When will retailers request HARPS as a requirement for supply?
HARPS audits have been undertaken since 1 October 2016.
Registration is now open for all direct supply businesses (that have not yet implemented HARPS) supplying whole fruit, whole veg or nuts in shell to Australia’s major retailers. Registration is available right here on our HARPS Online site. You have until 30 June 2018 to complete your registration.
What specific industry scopes does the Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme relate to?
The Scheme is voluntary and open to those who perform the following activities:
- Grow produce for retail sale
- Pack produce for retail sale
- Operate as an aggregator, distributor, broker or agent supplying produce for retail sale
- Are a direct supplier, a subcontract supplier or a co-packer
What products are in scope of the Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme?
The scope of the Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme includes the growing and packing of whole produce for retail sale. HARPS does not include processing or value-adding of produce. The product scope definition is aligned with Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Industry Scopes B1 – Primary Production (Module 1) and D – Packing.
Which retailers have committed to the Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme?
ALDI, Coles, Costco, Metcash (IGA) and Woolworths.
My business is based in New Zealand, I supply products to one or more of the HARPS participating retailers, is HARPS mandatory for my business?
HARPS is optional for New Zealand based suppliers. If suppliers choose to be approved to HARPS this must be in conjunction with one of the 4 approved base schemes.
What is the GFSI standard?
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) has developed a benchmark standard for food safety certification that reflects global best practice in food safety management. Businesses are not certified against this standard. Existing food safety standards can be benchmarked against the GFSI standard. If a standard meets the GFSI benchmark it is regarded as being ‘GFSI equivalent’. This work is accomplished through collaboration between the world’s leading food safety experts from production, retail, manufacturing and food service companies, as well as international organisations, governments, academia and service providers to the global food industry. GFSI is facilitated by The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global food industry network.
What is a ‘base scheme’?
A base scheme is one that the HARPS Stakeholder Working Group has agreed will form the basis of Certification and supply to the retailers. A base scheme must be a GFSI equivalent standard (*or provisionally accepted in the case of Freshcare, in recognition of substantial progress towards achieving GFSI equivalence).
What are the acceptable “base schemes”?
What does the new harmonised standard look like, what’s in it?
The Harmonised Standard includes the elements that retailers had added over the years that were over and above the GFSI benchmark standard. For example, for Coles these elements were embedded in the Coles Supplier Requirements; for Woolworths, they were included in the Woolworths Quality Assurance Produce Standard. The Stakeholder Working Group members have agreed on wording that reduces well over 200 additional elements to around. These are not new elements but a harmonisation of the wording of many existing elements that had similar meaning and intent.
Who will be conducting my audits in the future?
Retailers ultimately decide who can and cannot perform audits of their vendors. The HARPS Scheme Rules contains information regarding approved Certification Bodies in Appendix 2.
How long will my audit take?
As an indication only, your base scheme plus HARPS audit should take no longer than a current audit to one retail customer. If you are currently certified to multiple schemes, there should be a corresponding reduction in audit time.
What will this do to the cost of my audits?
This depends on your current situation. If you are currently audited to multiple schemes for multiple customers, your audit duration will reduce, hence your audit costs will also reduce. By rationalising the number of certifications, you may also reduce administration and other costs. If HARPS is an addition to your food safety auditing plan you will see an increase in costs associated with additional audit duration. This is to cover the cost of the HARPS elements.
What about produce that is imported and sold on the domestic market?
The HARPS Working Group members are currently identifying the most robust solution to extend HARPS to direct, subcontract and co-packer supply of imported produce. Given the current landscape, whereby the overwhelming majority of produce is sourced locally for retailers, the Stakeholder Working Group has identified that local produce will be the priority but that imports will follow.
What if I export and my export customers want another scheme?
The Stakeholder Working Group retailers have deliberately chosen base schemes that are equivalent to the Global Food Safety Initiative benchmark standard (or substantially progressed as for Freshcare). Growers and packers should remind export customers that, depending on scope, these schemes are equivalent to the global benchmark and that there is no food safety outcome advantage to be gained in implementing another scheme. Conversely, if an export customer insists on a particular scheme that is one of the four base schemes nominated by Australian retailers, speak to your retail customer/s to see if a switch will have any impact on supply arrangements.
My business is currently certified to Codex HACCP – what does this mean for me?
Certification to Codex HACCP is not currently acceptable for direct, subcontract or co-packer vendors, but it has been acceptable for indirect vendors, i.e. those that pick into bulk containers – not the final retail pack. For Indirect vendors, Codex HACCP will no longer be accepted by the Australian retailers participating in this arrangement after 1st January 2019. Indirect vendors will be required to transition from Codex HACCP to one of the approved GFSI base schemes applicable to the scope of your businesses activities.
Why do we need to use a primary benchmark certification if HARPS scope covers growing to packing and is accepted by the major retailer?
HARPS includes a set of criteria that all participating retailers have agreed upon that have existed in their own specific schemes, i.e. the Coles (CSR) Supplier Requirements, and in WQA. This criteria sits outside of the 4 approved schemes (BRC, SQF, Freshcare and GLOBALG.A.P.). At the commencement of this project there were in excess of 200 requirements that were additional to the base schemes the retailers had included into their own specific requirements, however throughout the HARPS workshops we have agreed on approximately 90 requirements that still sit outside of the 4 schemes mentioned above. The HARPS standard includes areas such as labelling and packaging, retention samples, specifications, control of foreign objects etc. – much like those you will see in the base scheme however they are generally more prescriptive than those you will find in the base schemes – and of course agreed to by all retailers.
How do I know which business/course is approved to conduct HACCP training?
Initial HACCP training must be conducted by a recognised industry training body that is RTO / TPECS certified (or an international equivalent). If in doubt about a providers credentials or approval to provide the appropriate training please contact the HARPS team on 1300 852 219.
Are potted or sleeved herbs in scope?
Yes both potted and sleeved herbs are in scope for HARPS.
Can I use brooms with wooden handles in my pack house?
Yes, and the same goes for other wooden handled tools, however you need to ensure they are in good condition (i.e. intact with no signs of any pieces breaking off). The HARPS standard does not prohibit the use of wooden brooms or other cleaning or maintenance equipment including wooden parts. This requirement is a prevention mechanism and specifically designed to avoid foreign object contamination – a major source of complaint raised by consumers. The HARPS standard does require procedures to be in place ensuring wooden tools, field bins and pallets are regularly inspected to assess the condition and suitability for use and that damaged wooden items which present a risk to product are removed from use.
Why can’t I use paperclips, staples and other stationary in an office which is located within a packing shed?
Small items like staples, thumb tacks, and drawing pins represent a high risk if they become contaminants in fresh produce. HARPS requires your business to adequately demonstrate appropriate segregation and control of these items. Your business must demonstrate these controls through segregation and organisation so that there is no risk to product and to ensure users of these items are aware of their responsibility in preventing foreign object contamination. All staff and visitors should also be made aware of these procedures in relation to the use and control of these items. This could be done via signage or an induction/training process.