Last update: 26/10/2022
The HARPS FAQ has recently been re-designed. New features, such as section headings have been designed to assist the user in finding their specific question/s. The FAQ is continuously updated as the Standard is revised, or as new information or questions are brought to our attention.
Significant additions to the FAQ were made in response to feedback received following the Draft HARPS Version 2.0 launch. If you cannot find an answer to your question here, please contact the HARPS Helpline on 1300 852 219, or hover over the ‘Contact’ tab to find the Enquiry page. Here you can complete an online form that will be delivered straight to the HARPS inbox.
HARPS FAQ section headings
HARPS Audits, Audit Reports, Certificates
Certification Bodies and Auditors (approval)
Communication, Consultation Support and Feedback
Complaints and Whistle-Blower Process
Extensions and Exemptions
Guidance and Documentation
The HARPS Standard & associated Technical Documents
HARPS Technical Advisory Group (H-TAG)
What is the Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme (HARPS)?
It is a world-first scheme designed to harmonise all retailer-specific food safety, trade, and legal requirements of each of Australia’s major grocery retailers (ALDI, Coles, Costco, Hello Fresh, Metcash (IGA) and Woolworths). Since the October 2016 launch, Hello Fresh, McDonald’s Australia and Harris Farm Markets have also become members of HARPS. HARPS aims to develop one scheme that all participating retailers accept. So, there is only one instead of multiple individual food safety audits for suppliers.
How did HARPS begin?
In 2012 Horticulture Australia Ltd (now Hort Innovation) initiated a project to harmonise food safety certification requirements for the major retailers in Australia. The result of this project is the Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme (HARPS).
HARPS was an industry initiative. Industry approached Hort Innovation to ask for help in meeting multiple food safety schemes involved in supplying major retailers. Retailers agreed and were prepared to align their food safety requirements.
The initial HARPS project was funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia Ltd using across-industry levies and funds from the Australian Government. The scheme is voluntary and application for approval is open to all fresh produce businesses that supply the major grocery retailers. The project has been supported by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Food and Grocery Council.
In May 2020, HARPS transitioned from being a project funded by Hort Innovation to a standalone entity, generating its own finances managed by One Direction ANZ.
Why was HARPS introduced?
Australia’s five leading grocery retailers (ALDI, Coles, Costco, Metcash (IGA) and Woolworths) have had different food safety system requirements for their suppliers. For those supplying multiple retailers, this meant 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 auditing multiple systems stressful and complex. A single audit of an approved GFSI 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.
How is HARPS funded?
HARPS charges a Royalty Fee of $295.00 + GST from each site that is audited to HARPS, which is collected by the Certification Body (CB) on behalf of HARPS. This is called the HARPS Royalty Fee.
The HARPS Royalty Fee remained unchanged since the launch of HARPS in October 2016 and increased to $295.00 + GST on 1st July 2022.
HARPS is self-financing, has received no funding from Hort Innovation, and relies on income from the HARPS Royalty fee, as well as contributions from the HARPS Participating Retailers, CBs that audit HARPS and Auditors via an annual registration fee.
When was HARPS launched?
HARPS was launched in Oct 2016 and the major retailers accepted HARPS audits as an alternative to their own specific standards from this date.
In the last financial year, more than 1,600 suppliers became HARPS approved.
HARPS Version 2 was released on Monday 17th October 2022. Transition to the new standard will be required 6 months post-launch for Tier 1 suppliers and 12 months post- launch for Tier 2 suppliers.
Does HARPS cover Food Safety requirements?
The approved GSFI standards go a long way to ensure the delivery of safe fresh produce, focusing on key food safety requirements. HARPS has been designed to enhance the rigour around specific food safety, trade and regulatory criteria that do not appear in the GFSI standards or are specific to Australian local needs. Retailers identify specific issues that have led to consumer complaints, rejections, withdrawals and recalls, which are a cost to suppliers and retailers. They are also the cause of consumer dissatisfaction and loss of consumer trust that can have long-lasting impacts. The additional level of prescription, above the GFSI schemes, include criteria such as foreign object management, control of weights and measures and protocols around the proper management of packaging and labelling.
Does HARPS cover Quality requirements?
HARPS covers quality requirements in line with retailer requirements. For example, the Standard will refer to Customer Specifications where a supplier must follow these specifically.
In some instances, HARPS refers to quality requirements, such as criteria that relates to shelf-life testing or retention sampling. In addition to ensuring quality criteria is adhered to, this also serves to ensure weights and measurement requirements are met, and that suppliers are monitoring the performance of their products over its shelf-life.
Is HARPS compulsory?
HARPS is a voluntary scheme, applicable for suppliers to the major grocery retailers (ALDI, Coles, Costco, Hello Fresh, Metcash (IGA) and Woolworths), – so, growers can still supply farmers markets, central markets and independent greengrocers without HARPS.
HARPS applies to businesses that are either Tier 1 or Tier 2 suppliers. Tier 1 suppliers are those that supply directly to one or more of the HARPS participating retailers. Tier 2 suppliers are those that supply the Tier 1 suppliers, knowing their produce is destined for sale with one or more of the HARPS participating retailers.
For all Tier 1 and 2 suppliers, HARPS approval is required in conjunction with certification to one of the HARPS approved GFSI programs, namely Freshcare, SQF, GLOBALG.A.P., or BRCGS. The decision around which standard to implement should be based on the scope of activities your business undertakes. For further information please refer to the HARPS Decision Graphic
HARPS Management and Ownership
Who owns HARPS?
HARPS is a program that Hort Innovation owns and includes:
- The HARPS Database
- HARPS branding including the HARPS Logo
- HARPS Website content
- The HARPS Standard, Scheme Rules and all associated technical documentation
- HARPS training materials
Who manages HARPS?
One Direction ANZ is the entity responsible for the ongoing management of HARPS. Following a competitive tender process run by Hort Innovation, a Management Agreement (Licence) was awarded to One Direction ANZ in May 2020 to manage HARPS. The Management Agreement details performance requirements to be met by One Direction ANZ on a six-monthly basis.
Who is One Direction ANZ?
One Direction ANZ Pty Ltd is the entity responsible for ongoing managing and operating of HARPS, led by Tristan Kitchener and Belinda Millard.
Tristan has led the HARPS Project since it was initiated in 2012 with Hort Innovation. He is an ex-retailer and has held technical and commercial positions with Sainsbury’s (UK) and Coles supermarkets, and is now a management consultant providing advice and support along the grocery value chain, from major retailers through to manufacturers and primary producers. He has a focus upon fresh foods and was the Group Merchandise Manager, Fresh Produce, at Coles Supermarkets (2005-09). Increasingly Tristan assists businesses to understand the implications of the changing retail and consumer environment and helps identify solutions to key business challenges. Tristan is a strong advocate for supply chain members collaborating more closely to better understand and meet the needs of the consumer and believes that this can be most effectively achieved by transferring learning from other markets and sectors. Tristan’s formal qualifications include a MBA, MPhil (Horticulture Management) and BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences and he is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD). Please visit www.kitchenerpartners.com.au for more information.
With over 20 years’ experience in the Quality Assurance industry, Belinda is a passionate and enthusiastic professional having been involved with the HARPS Project since 2014. Prior to her role with the HARPS, Belinda worked within the Group Quality Technical Services Team for Australia’s major retailer, Woolworths Ltd. Reporting to the Head of Group Quality Technical Services in the role of Supplier Approval Manager, she was accountable for audit program management across Woolworths’ eight operational business divisions including WQA – food safety and quality program, WQA – Consumer Goods and the Woolworths Ltd Ethical Audit Program. Belinda managed teams locally as well as in Hong Kong, China and Bangladesh. Following the completion of a Diploma in Applied Science – Food Technology, Belinda commenced her career working for GSF Australia assisting with the implementation of HACCP programs to the fresh produce grower network supplying McDonald’s restaurants throughout Australia and Asia. Belinda is a Principal Auditor of Food Safety Management Systems. Throughout her career she has maintained her enthusiasm to better understand the fresh produce supply chain, focusing on the audit and certification of food suppliers across a number of food safety and quality audit programs. Belinda Is currently studying an MBA, majoring in project management. Belinda is an active promoter of harmonisation solutions for supply chain members assisting with the development of auditor competency tools for the GSCP (Global Social Compliance Program). Belinda has also represented Woolworths Ltd in the Auditor Competency Scheme Committee operated by the Global Food Safety Initiative.
The HARPS Standard & associated Technical Documents
What is the HARPS Standard?
The HARPS Standard is the culmination of food safety, trade and legal requirements across all HARPS participating retailers that are over and above, or more prescriptive that the GFSI standard requirements. The HARPS standard acts as a bolt-on standard to the accepted GFSI schemes BRCGS, Freshcare, GLOBALG.A.P., SQF.
What HARPS support documentation is available?
We are new to HARPS, where do we start?
In order to achieve HARPS approval, the business must be certified to one of the approved GFSI standards. Suppliers are encouraged to conduct the GFSI and HARPS audits simultaneously. Given the GFSI standard forms the foundation of the food safety and quality plan, suppliers are encouraged to develop and implement the GFSI program first and then add the HARPS requirements where applicable. Use of the HARPS internal audit document for this purpose is encouraged. Please ensure you contact your Certification Body, to ensure that they add HARPS to your GFSI audit.
What are the HARPS Scheme Rules? Where is this document located?
The HARPS Scheme Rules include important information that relates to the HARPS audit that is of a non-technical nature. Here you will find information relating to corrective action closeout timeframes, when the audit should take place and your roles and responsibilities as a supplier. Refer to the Scheme Rules
HARPS Guidance and documentation
Is the Guidance auditable or is this best practice?
In addition to the HARPS Standard, you will also find the HARPS Standard and Guidance Document. This document has been designed to assist suppliers with their understanding of why the element is important and how to go about implementation. The HARPS Guidance has been developed to outline best practice for the HARPS standard elements. Guidance is not auditable, only the element itself if auditable. You can find the HARPS Standard and Guidance document here.
HARPS Example Templates
Example templates have been developed for use, free-of-charge, covering all sections of the HARPS standard. Click to review the templates
HARPS Version 2
Why was there a need for version 2 of HARPS?
HARPS 1.0 was launched in October 2016 and from this date retailers accepted HARPS audits as a replacement for their own specific requirements. The intention for HARPS 1.0 was to issue a standard to industry that could then be added to, so some sections, such as the section on Growing and the application of raw manure on product prior to harvest, were listed as TBC.
HARPS 2.0 addresses criteria for these sections and other learnings that were gathered since the development of HARPS 1.0 (which was developed in 2015).
Development of the Version 2.0 Standard
Version 2.0 of the HARPS Standard has been in development since early 2019. Each element has been reviewed, discussed, and debated by the HARPS-Technical Advisory Group (H-TAG), who have provided recommendations for improvements to the Retailer Committee. In addition, feedback following a six-week public consultation period, that closed in January 2021, has been an essential component of the development process. Consultation with industry via the H-TAG and through the gathering of industry feedback has helped to ensure the HARPS elements are practical, realistic and deliver on food safety management objectives.
Specific attention has been placed on the requirements of Tier 2 growers, who may be less well-resourced than some Tier 1 suppliers. This has included detailing criteria throughout the standard specific to Tier 2s and providing guidance to growers and suppliers that are utilising the Freshcare Standard as their HARPS GFSI scheme. In addition, the 12-month transition period offers a greater opportunity for Tier 2s to update plans, processes, and procedures before the October 2023 launch date.
One Direction ANZ personnel and HARPS Participating Retailers have undertaken a pilot program involving multiple suppliers across different Tiers, geographical locations, product and process scopes and GFSI Standards. The objective of this program was to challenge the new standard in a live audit environment. The program allowed us to identify any elements deemed unclear or overly complicated by the supplier or the auditor to ensure further refinement.
What are the HARPS Version 2 changes (from Version 1)?
HARPS 2.0 includes a guidance document to help with interpretation of HARPS and details if the requirement applies to a Tier 1 or 2 supplier (or both). This helps both suppliers and auditors in understanding what the expectations are more clearly and ensures accurate interpretation of HARPS elements.
For those of you who reviewed the original Version 2.0 Draft released in December 2019, you will recall sections on Food Fraud and Business Culture. Following a comprehensive review of the draft to ensure no duplication had occurred with the recently released Freshcare FSQ4.2 standard, the Retailer Committee agreed to remove these sections, given all GSFI standards have adequately addressed these essential components.
The standard looks different, it’s lengthier. However, this is not due to additional elements. In fact, in addition to removing the sections on Food Fraud and Business Culture, over nine other elements have been removed or re-written in combination with other elements to aid understanding and implementation. The increase in the size of the standard is due to the inclusion and focus on guidance for every element, where the specific element is explained in more detail with examples and further context regarding what outcomes the element is aiming to achieve.
In addition, for each element:
- the documentation required is detailed.
- the Tier (1 or 2) the element is applicable to is noted; and
- comprehensive guidance has been included to explain why the element exists and how to go about implementation.
The glossary has been enhanced, with hyperlinks throughout the document that will take you to the specific glossary definition to further aid understanding. The HARPS Decision Graphic has been included within the Standard, as well as a guide to assist with defining “Who is my Customer for HARPS?”.
When will HARPS 2.0 be released and what is the timeline for transition?
The HARPS Version 2.0 standard was launched on 17th October 2022.
From this date, HARPS suppliers have the option of selecting either HARPS Version 1.0 or 2.0 for their audits, in accordance with the following timelines:
- From 17th October 2022, Tier 1 suppliers have six months to transition to the new standard. Therefore, Version 2.0 will become mandatory for Tier 1 suppliers from 17th April 2023 (i.e., from 17thth April 2023 Tier 1 suppliers will NOT be able to use HARPS Version 1.0).
- Tier 2 suppliers will have 12 months to transition to Version 2.0, with a mandatory transition date of 16th October 2023 (i.e., from 16th October 2023 Tier 2 suppliers will NOT be able to use HARPS Version 1.0).
Following the 17th October 2022 launch, any new suppliers (those that have never undergone a HARPS audit before) will be required to have an audit against the Version 2.0 Standard.
Suppliers that can be defined as both Tier 1 and Tier 2, must follow the transition timeline for a Tier 1 supplier.
What support is available for Version 2.0?
In addition to the Guidance embedded within the new standard, a range of supporting documentation and material has been developed; the following tools and training will be available to support your businesses transition to Version 2.0:
- HARPS Version 1.0 – 2.0 Summary of Changes (document);
- Version 2.0 Internal Audit (document that replaces the HARPS Pre-Assessment document);
- Transition Training online (short videos to support understanding, as an alternative to using HARPS Version 1.0 – 2.0 Summary of Changes;
- HARPS and Freshcare Gap Assessment (document that covers the additional requirements of HARPS for suppliers on FSQ4.2 and SC2); and
- Version 2.0 training for growers and suppliers offers online and face-to-face training options. Refer to the Version 2.0 Training Providers tab for further information.
As always, you can contact us via the HARPS Website by filling in an enquiry form or contact the HARPS Helpline.
HARPS Version 2 DRAFT Amended elements
HARPS Version 2 DRAFT Deleted elements
Why has Business Culture been removed from the Version 2.0 HARPS Standard following inclusion in the Version 2.0 Draft?
Business Culture was removed following a comprehensive review and recommendation to the retailer committee by the HARPS Technical Advisory Group (H-TAG). This section was considered a duplication of the existing GFSI standard requirements for business culture and, as a result, was removed.
Why has Food Fraud been removed from the Version 2.0 HARPS Standard following inclusion in the Version 2.0 Draft?
Food Fraud was removed following a comprehensive review and recommendation to the retailer committee by the HARPS Technical Advisory Group (H-TAG). This section was considered a duplication of the existing GFSI standard requirements for business culture and, as a result, was removed.
Why have the training elements 5.3 and 5.4 been removed from the Version 2.0 HARPS Standard following inclusion in the Version 2.0 Draft?
Elements 5.3 and 5.4 have been removed from HARPS Version 2 after a comprehensive review by the H-TAG and a recommendation raised for exclusion to the retailer committee. These elements and their outcomes are better managed on a case-by-case basis.
HARPS Inclusions and Exclusions
What is the scope of HARPS?
The scheme is voluntary, and application is open to all fresh produce businesses that undertake the following activities:
- Grow produce for retail sale or food service;
- Pack produce for retail sale or food service;
- Operate as an aggregator, distributor, broker or agent supplying produce for retail sale or food service; or
- Are Suppliers or subcontracted Suppliers, that is they pack into retailer-branded packaging or bulk loose
Which businesses does HARPS apply to?
Given the current landscape, whereby the overwhelming majority of produce is sourced domestically for retailers (approximately 96%), the Retailer Committee have agreed that HARPS applies to domestic suppliers only, with overseas suppliers, such as those based in New Zealand, having the option to implement HARPS for their businesses, i.e., it is not mandatory. The HARPS retailers will only source produce from overseas businesses that are GFSI certified or approved under a retailer scheme and must also meet relevant biosecurity, import and other legislative requirements.
HARPS applies to businesses that are either Tier 1 or Tier 2 suppliers. Tier 1 suppliers are those that supply directly to one or more of the HARPS participating retailers. Tier 2 suppliers are those that supply the Tier 1 suppliers, knowing their produce is destined for sale with one or more of the HARPS participating retailers.
For all Tier 1 and 2 suppliers, HARPS approval is required in conjunction with certification to one of the HARPS approved GFSI programs, namely BRCGS, Freshcare, GLOBALG.A.P. or SQF. The decision for which standard to implement should be based on the scope of activities your business undertakes. For further information please refer to the HARPS Decision Graphic to determine whether your business is in scope for HARPS.
Which businesses are excluded from HARPS?
The Retailer Committee has deliberately chosen schemes that are equivalent to the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmark standard. 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 not 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.
What produce lines does HARPS apply to?
The scope of the HARPS Standard is for the growing and packing of whole produce (whole fruit, whole vegetables and in-shell nuts). The scope does not include the processing or value-adding of produce.
The scope covers all operations from site selection and preparation, growing, harvesting, packing, storage, and ripening. The addition of food service providers as HARPS Retail Customers has not led to an adjustment on the scope or increase in rigour of HARPS. The scope remains as whole fruit and vegetables and in-shell nuts. In addition to this, potted and sleeved herbs are in scope for HARPS.
What produce lines are excluded from HARPS?
The scope of the HARPS Standard is for the growing and packing of whole produce (whole fruit, whole vegetables and in-shell nuts). The scope does not include the processing or value-adding of produce such as fresh-cut salads, sliced mushrooms and shelled nuts.
What ancillary services are included in HARPS?
The ancillary services included in HARPS are ripening, brokerage activities (agent or merchant), storage and cooling, where product handling and traceability are the responsibility of the ancillary service provider.
What ancillary services are excluded from HARPS?
Transportation services are excluded from the scope of HARPS.
Is HARPS only for Australian businesses?
HARPS is mandatory for Australian-based suppliers defined as Tier 1 or Tier 2 as per the HARPS decision graphic.
Given the current landscape, whereby the overwhelming majority of produce is sourced domestically for retailers (approximately 96%), the Retailer Group have agreed that HARPS applies to domestic suppliers only, with overseas suppliers, such as those based in New Zealand, having the option to implement HARPS for their businesses, i.e. it is not mandatory. The HARPS retailers will only source produce from overseas businesses that are GFSI certified or approved under a retailer scheme and must also meet relevant biosecurity, import and other legislative requirements.
How are businesses that are not certified to a GFSI standard best handled?
Not all approved suppliers can have GFSI Certification. Not all packaging and seedling suppliers are certified to a GFSI standard.
GFSI standard certification applies to Tier 1 and Tier 2 businesses in conjunction with HARPS. For Tier 3 suppliers, HARPS is not required, only GFSI certification. This applies to fresh produce supply (products in scope) only.
If presented with this issue, contact HARPS support for advice
What is the Retailer Committee?
The Retailer Working Group is made up of representatives from major grocery retailers (ALDI, Coles, Costco, Hello Fresh Metcash and Woolworths) as well as McDonald’s Australia and Harris Farm Markets. The Retailer Committee was established in 2012 to guide the development of the HARPS program and is the final decision maker. Hort Innovation is a member of the HARPS Retailer Committee.
How does a company become part of HARPS and the Stakeholder Working Group?
Requests in writing are made to the HARPS administrator, One Direction ANZ. Membership applications are discussed with the Retailer committee prior to approval.
How has the addition of Food Service Providers impacted HARPS?
The addition of food service providers as HARPS Retail Customers has not led to an adjustment on the scope or increase in rigour of HARPS. The scope remains as whole fruit and vegetables and in-shell nuts.
HARPS Technical Advisory Group
What is the HARPS Technical Advisory Group (H-TAG)?
The HARPS Technical Advisory Group (H-TAG) is responsible for guiding and contributing towards the ongoing development of the HARPS Standard and associated technical documents, such as the Interpretive Guidance Document and Scheme Rules.
What is the role of the HARPS Technical Advisory Group (H-TAG)?
The HARPS Technical Advisory Group (H-TAG) is responsible for guiding and contributing towards the ongoing development of the HARPS Standard and associated technical documents, such as the Interpretive Guidance document and Scheme Rules.
The H-TAG aims to:
- Review HARPS Elements: Current elements that have resulted in challenge or complaint are reviewed and amendments proposed to make sure they are practical and realistic;
- Ongoing Improvement and Root-Cause Analysis: Learn from incidents (including recalls, withdrawals, or major non-conformances) and include proposing improvements in future revisions of HARPS to prevent / reduce the potential impact of any future incidents
- Industry Approach: Ensure key decisions adopt a “whole of supply chain” and risk-based approach.
- Horizon Scanning: Discuss upcoming food safety legislation and global issues as well as their impact on the industry.
Current membership is comprised of a broad cross-section of industry representatives, including grower-packers (large and small businesses), marketers, Certification Bodies, food safety scheme representatives, as well as industry association representatives and consultants. All members have deep technical experience from within the fresh produce industry.
We are currently looking for greater participation from Tier 2 growers, for further information or to apply to become a member please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
How do you become a member of the H-TAG?
We are currently looking for greater participation from Tier 2 growers, for further information or to apply to become a member please contact email@example.com
How are members selected to be on the H-TAG?
The H-TAG is responsible for reviewing all applications and providing a recommendation to the HARPS retail committee. The final decision is made by the retail committee and decisions are made via a voting process.
What types of organisations are currently represented on the H-TAG?
One of the objectives of the H-TAG is to seek a diversified group of business types in its membership. The current membership includes both Tier 1 and Tier 2 businesses, Certification Body and schemes, trainers and industry group representatives.
HARPS Sub-Committees (within the H-TAG)
What is the role of the HARPS Sub Committees?
A subcommittee is developed when a specific area of focus is identified that requires in-depth review or analysis to develop a recommendation.
The role of the subcommittee is to focus and research a specific area of the standard, to bring this analysis to the broader H-TAG for discussion and to develop recommendations to the Retail Committee.
What HARPS Sub Committees have been formed?
- Training Subcommittee
- Objective: To review the draft requirements of the Version 2.0 draft, specifically the additional elements beyond elements 5.1 and 5.2.
- Manure application Subcommittee
- Objective: To review available literature and provide recommendations to the Retailer Committee for exclusion periods associated with the application of raw manure, uncomposted green waste and livestock stocking.
- Handwashing Water Subcommittee
- Objective: To develop a recommendation to allow irrigation quality water to be used as handwashing water for in-field use following handwashing and sanitising practices.
- Process Scope/Tier 2 involvement Subcommittee
- Objective: To establish why the involvement of Tier 2 suppliers in HARPS is essential for a whole of supply-chain approach
- GAP Analysis Against GFSI Base Standards Subcommittee
- Objective: To identify and mitigate duplication in HARPS with other GFSI standards.
HARPS and GFSI Base Program Relationship
What is a ‘GFSI' Scheme? What is a GFSI program?
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 are the acceptable “GFSI schemes”?
I am already certified to a GFSI scheme, so why do I need HARPS?
HARPS was designed to enhance the rigour around specific food safety, trade and regulatory criteria that do not appear in the GFSI schemes. Retailers had never accepted the GFSI schemes alone, and prior to HARPS, each retailer had their own requirements, as set out below:
- Woolworths Quality Assured (WQA)
- Coles Supplier Requirements (CSR)
- ALDI Addendum
- Costco Requirements
HARPS has harmonised the individual retailer requirements into a single standard that meets the requirements of all retailers.
This harmonised approach is unique to the fresh produce sector; all suppliers in other sectors across grocery and fresh foods, are still required to meet the retailers’ individual requirements, in addition to the GFSI base scheme(s).
HARPS and Retailers
Where do I find out the specific requirements where ‘as per customer requirements’ is documented?
When in doubt, contact your retail customer directly. For Tier 1 suppliers’ information may be available on the retailers supplier portal.
How do I know which Tier our business is and which Tier our approved suppliers are?
Refer Decision Graphic
Why are businesses other than Tier 1 included in HARPS?
Not only Tier 1, but Tier 2 suppliers are involved in the growing, harvesting and packing activities for fresh produce, and in some cases further handling such as ripening and storage. Food safety, trade and legal issues are not limited to Tier 1 suppliers only, food safety must be a focus throughout the supply chain. More often than not, the greater potential risks to food safety occur with activities that must be conducted by the Tier 2 supplier, where there is more opportunity to exposure through inputs such as soil, water and chemical use.
HARPS Extensions and Exemptions
How can a business request an extension?
Requests for extensions must first be made with your respective (retail) customer(s), irrespective of whether your business is a Tier 1 or Tier 2 supplier. Retailers will manage any requests directly with their Tier 1 supplier, therefore Tier 2 suppliers should discuss the need for an extension with their Tier 1 customer(s).
Provide details on the nature of the request, e.g., an extension to a closeout timeframe, along with any supporting information/evidence to your respective retail customer(s), first using the HARPS Extension Form.
Once approval has been obtained by necessary parties, please provide this completed form and any accompanying approval emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
In the subject header please type HARPS EXTENSION request followed by the Company Name.
HARPS will notify your respective Certification Body of the approval once this form is processed.
How can a business request an exemption?
Requests for exemptions must first be made with the HARPS administrator.
Provide details of the nature of the request along with any supporting information/evidence to email@example.com using the HARPS Exemption Form.
In the subject header please type HARPS EXEMPTION request followed by the Company Name.
HARPS will notify your business via email along with the respective Certification Body of the outcome once the request has been processed.
What are the fees associated with HARPS?
HARPS is self-financing, owned by Hort Innovation and managed by One Direction ANZ Pty Ltd. HARPS charges a Royalty fee of $295.00 + GST for each site that is audited to HARPS, which is collected by the Certification Body on behalf of HARPS.
HARPS aims to maximise operating efficiencies to help keep the fees charged to participating businesses to a minimum.
Table 1 Shows the HARPS Fees, including new fees effective from 1st July 2022 that relate to the HARPS Royalty Fee.
HARPS Communication, Consultation Support and Feedback
How does HARPS communicate regular updates?
The quarterly HARPS Newsletter has been designed to aid our communication with the horticulture industry and to help keep you informed of important changes and updates to HARPS. The newsletter is sent to all subscribers.
Would you like us to keep you up to date with the latest news from HARPS?
Click here to subscribe
How does HARPS include members and stakeholders in any new standard updates?
The H-TAG provide opinion and recommendations on the elements through the standard development process. Recommendations are then provided the Retailer Committee for final review. Prior to the Version 2.0 standard being released a series of pilot audits were conducted to conduct a proof-of-concept for all technical documentation and to allow for any necessary adjustments.
How does HARPS communicate the outcomes from industry consultation?
All feedback received is subject to review. The HARPS Management Team work with the HARPS Technical Advisory Group to develop recommendations for changes that will then be reviewed by the HARPS Retailer Committee. The HARPS Retailer Committee will review all recommendations and provide a response. Discussion and negotiation will occur until an agreement is reached on the best approach to meet the desired outcomes.
How do I communicate with HARPS?
Click here to contact us.
How can the HARPS Helpline assist my business?
Since its inception in October 2016, the HARPS Helpline has been a service available to all industry members, free of charge. The Helpline aims to assist suppliers and growers involved in HARPS.
There are a range of questions that come through to the Helpline number, including, getting started with HARPS, which Certification Bodies can conduct audits for their business, what training requirements are necessary in order to meet the HARPS requirements, as well as questions relating to the interpretation of the standard.
The key objective of the Helpline is to offer general information so that those making enquiries feel they have received the appropriate level of support to take the next step, whether that is around determining which auditing company they are able to use or to assist with implementing a specific requirement.
Importantly, the HARPS Helpline is a service available to you if you are faced with an issue or would like to raise a complaint.
Any enquiry to the HARPS can be treated as confidential, that being said, if you would like your feedback passed on to the HARPS Retailer Committee this can be facilitated by our Helpline facility.
How do we keep up to date with HARPS?
Click here to subscribe.
In order to meet the HARPS Version 2.0 training requirements, refer to Section 4 of the HARPS Standard
What training do we need to complete to meet HARPS standard requirements?
HARPS 4.1 – HACCP Training
The HARPS Practitioner shall complete HACCP Training by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) or a local or international equivalent . A Statement of Attainment, or equivalent, confirming successful completion shall be maintained and in Australia include the following preferred Units of Competency (UOC) as a minimum:
- FBPFSY2002 Apply Food Safety Procedures; and
- FBPFSY3002 Participate in a HACCP Team.
The training shall be delivered either face-to-face or online. Online training must be live/ trainer-led (i.e. allows for meaningful interaction between the trainer and trainee in real-time). Not all RTOs offer the two preferred UOCs stated above. Any of the following UOCs listed below may be completed in combination that addresses an understanding of:
- The Principles of HACCP;
- Conducting a risk assessment;
- Implementing HACCP in the workplace; and
- Teamwork, good agricultural and hygiene practices.
The Unit Codes FBPFSY2002 Apply Food Safety Procedures and FBPFSY3002 Participate in a HACCP Team shaded green in Table 1 below are the preferred UOCs. However, completion of these two units is not mandatory provided any combination of the two units listed below is completed. Examples of possible UOC combinations to satisfy Element 4.1 are shown below in the Guidance Section. Where a business’ representative (now called the HARPS Practitioner) has previously met the training requirements of HARPS v1.0 Element 5.1, this training is considered compliant under HARPS v2.0 Element 4.1.
4.2 Refresher HACCP Training
The HARPS Practitioner shall undertake Refresher HACCP Training (RHT) once every three years. The Refresher HACCP Training shall be conducted by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) (or a local or international equivalent) or a Certified Trainer affiliated with an RTO. Refresher HACCP Training shall be trainer-led and can be delivered either online or face-to-face.
What is HARPS Training?
A series of videos has been developed to assist Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers in transitioning from HARPS Version 1.0 to the Version 2.0 Standard. These short videos, available to access free of charge, provide an overview of changes for each section of the Version 2.0 Standard and are designed to:
- Provide an explanation for any structural changes
- Highlight and explain any new elements
- Outline elements that have been re-worded for further clarification
- Deliver further context for areas of focus for implementation
- Outline any new features of the standard, such as new definitions and terminology used throughout the standard and supporting documents
- Remind businesses that templates are available for use in the Tools and Templatessection on the HARPS website
Transition Training Videos : Click here
Version 2.0 HARPS training is not a mandatory requirement, however suppliers are encouraged to attend HARPS training to assist them with their implementation and understanding of the standard and associated technical documents. To find out more about HARPS training click here
Which training companies area Approved Training Providers to delivery HARPS material?
HARPS will always control and manage the development of training content, with the ownership sitting with Hort Innovation, to ensure appropriate rigour and accuracy of all training material. Training will include face-to-face and online options.
Only HARPS approved training providers are permitted to deliver HARPS training, that is, HARPS have assessed the capability and competency of the training organisation and specific trainer(s) to ensure sufficient rigour and accuracy in the training content delivered. It is important that any HARPS training delivers the required learning objectives and suppliers are accurately informed.
Currently two companies, Fresh Business Training and Quality Associates Training, have been awarded a contract to deliver training for HARPS Version 2.0 following a competitive tender process.
What qualifications do HARPS Trainers require?
Trainers must be experienced, have a depth of industry knowledge, and understand the critical needs of the customer in the delivery of safe, fresh produce.
The training organisation must be operating as an RTO (Registered Training Organisation) and trainers must have completed Certificate IV in training and assessment.
HARPS Certification Bodies and Auditors (approval)
Which Certification Bodies can conduct HARPS audits?
Retailers ultimately decide who can and cannot perform audits of their Tier 1 Suppliers.
Growers and Suppliers should refer to the following document to ensure appropriate selection of a Certification Body (CB) to conduct their HARPS Audit Scheme Rules – Appendix 2 Certification Body Matrix
Click here for Certification Bodies and Auditors
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 for Tier 1s.
Audit duration is mandated by GFSI base standards and the HARPS audit duration is estimated by thw audit company based on a number of factors including customers, produce lines, facility size, number of employees etc.
What will the cost of an audit be?
Audit costs are determined by the certification body you select to complete the audit.
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 are the responsibilities and accountabilities of auditors?
HARPS conducts calibration sessions for existing auditors and training of new auditors to ensure accuracy of the HARPS elements during audits, although the responsibility of auditor training sits with the respective certification bodies. All new auditors to HARPS must be approved to audit one or more of the HARPS approved GFSI programs, successfully complete HARPS training together with a written examination, as well as undergo a witness audit by a HARPS-approved witness assessor.
What qualifications do HARPS Auditors need?
Auditors of the HARPS Standard must meet the following criteria:
- Be approved to audit by one or more GFSI Schemes, with a relevant industry scope (e.g. Intensive Horticulture, Primary Production);
- Be contracted to or employed by one or more of the HARPS approved Certification Bodies; and
- Successfully complete the HARPS Auditor Approval Program. Details of the HARPS Auditor Approval Program are available through the HARPS website
It is important for auditors to accurately and consistently interpret the elements within the HARPS standard. The HARPS Auditor Approval Program has been developed to communicate the fundamentals of the HARPS Scheme, transfer knowledge on current and important issues faced by participating retailers and improve upon the current competency of HARPS auditors.
The program works closely with the HARPS Participating Retailers to build upon auditor competency and capability through carefully considered training and development of both auditors and CB’s. New auditors to HARPS must complete a mandatory training session, which involves an examination followed by a witness audit with a HARPS approved Auditor Assessor.
For further information on becoming a HARPS Certification Body or auditor contact the HARPS Helpline on 1300 852 219
HARPS Audits, Audit Reports, Certificates
What are the benefits of having a HARPS audit?
Food safety audits are a vital part of doing business. Not only do audits help ensure your business is meeting your customers’ standards, but they also help prove that you are adequately following current legislation and this forms an important part of your due diligence defence should anything go wrong. There are many reasons why a food safety audit is good for your business. Audits can:
- Provide direction for achieving business goals for continuous improvement and greater efficiency;
- Analyse the performance of your input suppliers;
- Help meet and stay abreast of regulatory requirements;
- Help to proactively address issues before they occur; and
- Assist in analysing customer feedback and/or complaints to improve your business reputation and performance.
What is the lifecycle of an audit?
Preparing for your audit can be overwhelming. Whist you are preparing, a great deal of planning and preparation is also taking place from the perspective of your Certification Body (CB), the business that is conducting your audit, as well as the auditor. We’d like to share some insight into what takes place when audits are planned, conducted and recorded, through to issuing the HARPS certificate. Figure 1 below provides an overview of the audit process with additional detail provided below.
Figure 1. An Overview of the Audit Process
PRE-AUDIT ACTIVITY AND SCHEDULING
HARPS audits are typically scheduled up to 3 months in advance of the audit date. Given the availability of auditors and the diverse range of locations required for travel, efficient planning and scheduling is essential to keep travel costs to a minimum. During the scheduling process, CBs will “match” a suitably competent auditor (an auditor that is approved to conduct the audit for the program codes required by the client), consider the site location and ensure there is adequate “auditor rotation” in place; CBs are required to ensure that auditors do not conduct more than three consecutive audits for any one particular business to mitigate any familiarisation with the business and their processes, and COVID restrictions have certainly created more challenges for CBs in this regard!
The auditor will typically contact the site to arrange a suitable date and time, ensuring the appropriate products and activities will be able to be assessed during the audit (it’s important to ensure that the activities included within the audit scope are taking place on the day of the audit, otherwise the audit may not be able to be completed). Once the audit date has been confirmed the audit agenda can be developed and shared with the auditee (the site).
Prior to the audit taking place, the auditor may access the previous audit report to obtain background about the audit outcome and whether there were any specific areas of non-compliance that were raised. If the auditee is a new client, obviously this process will not take place. The auditor will be provided with a copy of the HARPS Audit Summary Page, a document that is downloaded and shared with the auditor by the CB, which details the auditee’s business and trading name, address and contact information, GFSI program to audit, process and product scopes. The auditor will request any additional information they require in preparation of the audit.
THE AUDIT IS CONDUCTED
Audits will typically occur over a series of stages, including an opening meeting, a site inspection, review of documentation, review of audit findings and the closing meeting.
The opening meeting is a good time to ensure both you and the auditor agree on the pre-advised agenda for the day. It is also the time to confirm locations that require inspection, personnel that will be required as part of evidence collection for the audit process and any important catch-up times, such as the closing meeting.
It’s critical that the information collected on the HARPS Summary Form is accurate. This includes the retailers that you are supplying (where available), as this information will allow the corresponding retailer to access a copy of the HARPS Summary Form, a summary of the corrective actions and the final HARPS Audit Report. It is worth checking you have clearly stipulated the key contact’s name and email address for your business to ensure they receive the HARPS Audit Report and the HARPS Certificate (and any other communication from HARPS, such as the quarterly HARPS Newsletter). This is also a good time to set an expectation on timing for the closing meeting.
The auditor is there to assess your organisation’s compliance against a set of elements, therefore, it is important that they collect objective evidence to demonstrate how well your business is complying. This means allowing the auditor access to documentation, relevant sites and infrastructure and personnel to build a body of evidence that provides evidence of your compliance.
The closing meeting is when the auditor will share the audit findings. The auditor will share both positive outcomes as well as areas for improvement. The areas for improvement, or non-conformances, should be discussed openly as they are identified during the audit. Final decisions and ratings, such as minor or major non-conformances, should be addressed in the closing meeting along with a discussion on the closeout information required to address the non-conformance(s). The auditor should provide a copy of the corrective actions to the site prior to leaving.
INITIAL TECHNICAL REVIEW AND AUDIT REPORT
All GFSI-benchmarked audits must be reviewed by an approved Technical Reviewer prior to approval for the CB to release the initial report to the site, this typically takes around one hour for this review to be conducted with additional time for follow up with the auditor and clarification.
The Technical Reviewer is a senior auditor or other suitably qualified person that will review the audit report and corrective actions with a view of independence. They will be looking to ensure the report contains the correct level of objective evidence, that the findings have been described adequately and that the severity ratings have been appropriately classified. In addition to your records (completed forms), the audit report can be used as objective evidence should it ever be required.
The Technical Reviewer is responsible for ensuring that any areas identified as incomplete, or not adequately explained or described, are reviewed with the auditor, so that these findings can be discussed and agreed prior to the report being released to the site.
FINAL TECHNICAL REVIEW, CERTIFICATION DECISION, AND ISSUE OF THE CERTIFICATE
The site then submits all objective evidence and corrective action(s) to the auditor for review and closure of any identified issues during the audit. The auditor and auditee may have further exchanges during this process until the auditor is satisfied any issues identified can be closed. The auditor will submit the final report back to the CB. The final closed report undergoes a final technical review which will take approximately 30 minutes to complete, to ensure that non-conformances have been addressed adequately by the site and closed appropriately by the auditor. The Certification Manager will then review the audit history as part of the certification decision process, which takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to finalise. This is the final step on approval of the final report.
At this point, the CB Administration will upload the final report, objective evidence and any other information to the HARPS Portal and issue a HARPS Certificate to the auditee. This is sent directly to the auditee via the HARPS Portal, which connects to the HARPS Database that holds all site information.
What information is on the HARPS Summary Form?
The HARPS Summary Form is a partly pre-filled form that the Certification Body is able to access from the HARPS Database and share with the auditor prior to your audit.
The form will be pre-filled with your company name and your ‘Key Contact’ details, GFSI program, business type (e.g., grower/packer etc.), product and process scope, nominated Certification Body and auditor name. The auditor will also ask if you would like to become a HARPS subscriber i.e., added to the HARPS mailing list. By doing so, your business will receive the latest communication and HARPS newsletters directly to your inbox.
The auditor will adjust any details on this form at the time of audit to ensure the information entered into the HARPS Database is accurate, as well as update the form to include a summary of findings and the number of Corrective Actions raised during the audit.
Who issues HARPS certificates?
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.
I am a Tier 1 Supplier; how will my retail customer know that I have HARPS?
During the audit opening meeting, your auditor will ask you which retail customers your business currently supplies. The auditor may ask you to verify this information by asking you to access the retail supplier portal, by requesting copies of retailer-specific specifications or assessing labels. The auditor may also ask to view a purchase order (valid within the last 12 months) to confirm that you are a current supplier.
Nominating a retailer that you do not currently supply will not help you gain approval to become a supplier; HARPS approval is not an automatic contract for supply to a nominated retailer since this is a commercial agreement between the individual retailer and supplier and has nothing to do with HARPS.
Retailers have access to the HARPS Database. The Database holds the HARPS Summary Form as well as any Corrective Actions raised during your audit (for both the GFSI scheme and HARPS).
How are HARPS certificates protected?
Using Laava to protect HARPS Certificates
HARPS has partnered with innovative Australian technology company Laava, to protect the integrity of our certificates. For HARPS, it’s essential that certificate holders and reviewers can trust their certificates are the real thing. Verification is simple. Scan the secure Laava Smart Fingerprint® on your certificate via www.harpsonline.com.au/scan on your mobile phone and quickly verify the certificate’s authenticity.
Equally, for Australian growers, suppliers and exporters, we understand that it’s critical to ensure your consumers and trade customers are getting the real thing. Whether you’re selling in supermarkets or farmers markets, domestically or for export, packaging and labelling is often the primary means of communicating with retailers and customers. Product packaging is a powerful tool, and ‘next generation’ connected packaging technology enabled by the Laava Smart Fingerprint® can deliver that assurance. Laava delivers trust through secure product authentication and supply chain traceability, with the added benefit of personalized consumer engagement experiences.
“Proving the authenticity, origin, sustainability and other claims behind some of Australia’s iconic premium brands is important to shoppers, retailers and producers alike. Consumers in particular are becoming increasingly curious about the people, places and stories behind what they buy. And of course, they also want to know it’s the real thing,” says Laava Joint CEO Gavin Ger.
To learn more about how Laava is working closely with Australian growers and producers, including Reid Fruits, to enable secure traceability outcomes, please click here.
Scanning the Laava Smart Fingerprint on your certificate
- Visit https://harpsonline.com.au in your smartphone browser, to bring up the scanner (no app is needed to download).
- Scan the unique Smart Fingerprint found on your HAPRS Certificate.
- The scan will pull up a single webpage which will display the digital records as they are currently kept in the HARPS Database.
- Compare the information between the HARPS Certificate and Laava webpage. If you find that the information is matching and consistent, you can feel confident that the certificate is accurate and authentic.
- If the scan data does not match the certificate contact HARPS on 1300 852 219 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information visit www.laava.id
Other Standards including Ethical Audits
Do ethical audits requested by retailers fall under HARPS?
Ethical audits are not within the scope of HARPS, they are a completely separate audit activity. HARPS audits focus on food safety, legal, and trade requirements for suppliers to the major Australian grocery retailers.
HARPS COMPLAINTS AND WHISTLE-BLOWER PROCESS
How are HARPS complaints handled?
Whistleblowing refers to the act of raising concerns about suspected or actual misconduct within the activities covered by HARPS and is a key element of our governance framework to achieve transparency and accountability. To aid adoption of HARPS and build trust in the scheme more generally, it is important to have a level playing field for all horticultural suppliers to the HARPS Retailers.
From time-to-time, suppliers will contact the HARPS Helpline to advise us of activities that breach the rules for supply to the HARPS Retailers. This is typically related to the sourcing and/or supply of produce to retailers that is not HARPS approved. One Direction ANZ, the managing entity for HARPS, along with all HARPS Retailers, consider these matters to be serious, hence any allegations are investigated, and appropriate action taken. Whilst the HARPS Retailers have their own whistle-blower policies, the HARPS Helpline is available to industry as a confidential service. If any claims of this nature are raised, the matter will be investigated and managed ensuring the identity of the claimant remains anonymous. To review the HARPS Complaints Policy please click here
If any grower or supplier still feels uncomfortable approaching either One Direction ANZ or any of the HARPS Retailers, they are encouraged to speak to either their Peak Industry Body or Hort Innovation.
The HARPS Logo is now available to horticultural industry members. If you would like to use the HARPS logo on your website, non-customer facing packaging or other B2B communication, the logo is available to businesses that are audited to HARPS along with industry organisations interested in using the logo for marketing purposes.
Please click here to review the HARPS Logos Style Guide Rules and Specifications. The logo will not be a certification mark, but rather the HARPS symbol alongside the words Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme as displayed here.