HARPS Newsletter – April 2021

A Message from the HARPS Management Team

In this edition of the HARPS Newsletter, we would like to share an update regarding the Public Consultation process for the HARPS Version 2 standard. Below you will find an overview of the responses, activities and steps implemented since the close of the consultation period.

One of the key areas identified through the consultation response was the limited direct communication to Tier 2 growers. Whilst we have contact details of all HARPS-approved businesses, due to privacy rules we cannot engage directly without the permission of each business. As we work to develop our communication and industry engagement channels, we encourage you to register your email address via the HARPS website so you can be kept up to date regarding important changes and updates to HARPS. Register to subscribe by clicking here https://harpsonline.com.au/contact and forward this newsletter on to your close contacts to ensure they are also kept up to date.

We look forward to sharing further developments for HARPS with you over the coming months.

Feedback response from the Public Consultation on Version 2

The Version 2 Public Consultation resulted in 80 submissions from across industry, with the majority received from Tier 2 growers and organisations that represent Tier 2 growers, such as Peak Industry Bodies and Industry Associations. Whilst many submissions were largely similar in content, they helped to articulate the concerns of industry and where more attention and refinement is required to ensure the final version will achieve the intended outcomes– namely to address food safety, trade and legal requirements that lead to customer complaints, rejections, withdrawals and recalls and ultimately consumer dissatisfaction.

Prior to feedback being shared with the HARPS Technical Advisory Group (H-TAG) and Retailer Committee, all feedback submissions were de-identified to maintain confidentiality (although headed letters were passed on as received). In addition to commentary about the technical components of the standard, the feedback called for greater transparency on who and how HARPS is managed and the role of Hort Innovation. The answer to these questions is now available on the HARPS Website under the FAQ page.

Figure 1: Version 2 Feedback Submissions by Industry Sector

Feedback also identified concerns in regard to the overall structure of the HARPS program, predominantly in relation to the requirement of Tier 2 Growers to be HARPS approved.  Focus was also placed on apparent duplication with GFSI Programs, predominantly Freshcare.  The timing of the HARPS Version 2 review occurred prior to the transition from FSQ 4.1 to 4.2 and as a result the GAP analysis for GFSI Programs originally conducted for HARPS Version 2 needs to be revisited.  The H-TAG are now in the process of re-conducting a GAP analysis in order to re-align Version 2 with all GFSI programs.

Figure 2: Version 2 Feedback by Section of the Standard

A number of businesses have asked for HARPS to pause and review the feedback to ensure the original intent of the program remains the focus moving forward. This request has been acknowledged by the retailers, and One Direction ANZ will continue to work with both the Retailer Committee and H-TAG and explore other means to address the concerns raised during this consultation period.

While the feedback that HARPS has received from Certification Bodies and Standard Owners has stressed the importance of training and given the level of concern raised about this element during the public consultation process, the H-TAG will consider all perspectives prior to making a final recommendation to the Retailer Committee as to whether training should be mandatory or not.

Version 2 Review Process

The development of the HARPS Version 2 standard began in July 2020 following an external third party competitive tender process. A draft standard was prepared and reviewed over a 5-month period and refined by both the H-TAG and Retailer Committee prior to release for public consultation. The original period of consultation was from mid-December 2020 to mid-January 2021, however, based on feedback, this was extended to the end of January 2021.

One Direction ANZ are currently facilitating workshops with the H-TAG to review all feedback submissions and address the areas of concern raised. The H-TAG will develop recommendations for the Retailer Committee to review and form decisions. This period of review and discussion will likely continue until July 2021, when a draft version will be tested via a pilot program with a selection of representative Tier 1 and 2 businesses across different industry product sectors, geographic locations, Certification Bodies etc. to establish how well the new standard works in practice. The outcome of these pilot audits will then be reviewed with final changes made as necessary. Therefore, a release of Version 2 is likely to be around October 2021.

In addition, as part of the review process, and specifically regarding duplication, HARPS Version 2 has been re-benchmarked against the updated versions of Freshcare’s Standard FSQ4.2 as well as an additional review of FCSC1. The H-TAG is reviewing duplicate elements and providing a recommendation to the Retailer Committee whether to keep, remove or change these elements. The output of this assessment will be shared once completed.

A Gannt chart is displayed below summarising the key timings for the development and review of Version 2. Please note timelines for the finalising Version 2 are indicative and may change as the review is conducted. Once Version 2 is finalised there will be a 6-month transition period from Version 1 to Version 2 and more information regarding this will be made available closer to the time.

Figure 3: HARPS Version 2 Project Plan

The HARPS Technical Advisory Group

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 propose 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 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 harps@harpsonline.com.au. The chart below shows current industry representation in the H-TAG:

Figure 4: Members of the HARPS Technical Advisory Group by Function

New Industry Committee

In an effort to address concerns around communication and engagement, particularly with Tier 2 growers, One Direction ANZ is working with the H-TAG and Retailer Committee to develop an ‘Industry Consultative Group’ (ICG) designed to review ongoing developments and changes for Version 2, including assisting with ongoing consultation and engagement with industry. 

The committee will likely be comprised of PIBs, Industry Associations, Hort Innovation, and retailer representation, with a focus on discussing retailer requirements and food safety, particularly strategic challenges and opportunities, outcomes, and industry culture. 

The new committee will assist in mutual understanding of the respective needs of both industry and retailers, and help to determine how HARPS can best address these needs. Further information about this committee will be made available via the HARPS website over the coming weeks.

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.

All calls to the 1300 Helpline number or emails to harps@harpsonline.com.au are responded to by a One Direction ANZ representative.

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 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.

Calls to the HARPS Helpline number are 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. Alternatively, you can email HARPS at harps@harpsonline.com.au

Woolworths Announces Changes to the Approved Certification Body List for Tier 1 Suppliers

Woolworths has recently announced changes to the list of Certification Bodies approved to conduct HARPS audits. The list has now been extended to include Merieux NutriSciences and SGS Australia. For more information on approved Certification Bodies for HARPS please click here.


Using Laava to protect HARPS Certificates

In the last HARPS Newsletter, we announced that we have 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 Laava partners with HARPS on document security | Laava Smart Fingerprints.