FAQs

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I haven’t yet received my HARPS certificate, who can I contact?

The Certification Body that completed the HARPS audit is the only authorised business to issue the HARPS Certificate. Please contact them directly with any enquiries related to your HARPS Certificate.

 

What training is acceptable to meet the requirements of Section 5.2 of the HARPS Standard?

To meet the requirements of Section 5.2 of the HARPS Standard which states “A representative of the organisation shall undertake refresher HACCP training at least every three years. Internal or external training providers may conduct refresher training as long as they are conducted by an RTO/TPECS training body or certified trainer. Evidence of trainer/training body qualification shall be provided. Refresher training may be conducted in a classroom environment or as an on-line course. Evidence of refresher training shall be maintained.” Both HACCP Refresher Training OR Freshcare Training OR HARPS Training (which includes a HACCP Refresher) are acceptable as long as they have been conducted within the last 3 years.

What is the aim of the Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme?

HARPS aims to reduce the complexity associated with the adoption, maintenance and auditing of multiple food safety systems by individual suppliers to multiple retail customers in Australia. One audit, against a GFSI benchmarked scheme plus HARPS, means a supplier 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 for 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 as many auditors also find the process of auditing multiple systems to be stressful and complex. By having a single audit, to an approved scheme plus HARPS, to supply all retail customers, will lower the complexity 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 HARPS Stakeholder Working Group is comprised of all HARPS participating Retailers, Hort Innovation and the HARPS Project Team.

When will HARPS Participating Retailers request HARPS as a requirement for supply?

HARPS audits have been accepted since 25th October 2016. All HARPS participating retailers require their suppliers (Tier 1) and their approved supply base (Tier 2) to be HARPS approved.

From February 2020 Woolworths has mandated HARPS for their supply chain (Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers).

What products are in scope for HARPS?

The scope of HARPS 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. Refer to the Decision Graphic

Which retailers have committed to HARPS?

ALDI, Coles, Costco, Metcash (IGA) and Woolworths. Other retailers may also join HARPS to help maintain an aligned and harmonised approach to food safety auditing in Australia.

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 approved GFSI 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 ‘GFSI' Scheme?

A GFSI scheme is one that the HARPS Stakeholder Working Group has agreed will form the basis of Certification and supply to the retailers. A 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 “GFSI schemes”?

What does the 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 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 suppliers. The HARPS Scheme Rules contains information regarding approved Certification Bodies in Appendix 2.

How long will my audit take?

As an indication only, your GFSI 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 reducing 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?

Given the current landscape, whereby the overwhelming majority of produce is sourced domestically for retailers (approximately 96%), the Stakeholder Working Group have agreed that HARPS applies to domestic suppliers only. Imported produce is also subject to additional requirements set out by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture.

What if I export and my export customers want another scheme?

The Stakeholder Working Group retailers have deliberately chosen 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 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 acceptable for HARPS suppliers.

Why do we need to use a primary benchmark certification if the HARPS scope covers growing through 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 WQA. These criteria sit outside of the approved schemes (BRC, SQF, Freshcare and GLOBALG.A.P.). At the commencement of the HARPS  project there were in excess of 200 requirements that were additional to the GFSI schemes the retailers had included into their own specific requirements, however, throughout the HARPS workshops a suite of requirements were agreed that still sit outside of the schemes that are approved. The HARPS standard includes areas such as labelling and packaging, retention samples, specifications, control of foreign objects etc.; much like those found in the GFSI scheme, however, they are generally more prescriptive than those you will find in the GFSI 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 Helpline.

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.