HARPS Newsletter September 2022 Edition

Welcome to the latest edition of the HARPS Newsletter. We’ve dedicated this edition specifically to the launch of the HARPS Version 2.0 Standard. Here, you’ll find key information that relates to the launch of Version 2.0, including the launch date for the standard, transition timelines and an overview of the support available to help your business transition from Version 1.0 to 2.0.

In addition, we’ll provide insight into the behind-the-scenes activities that have been taking place to ensure HARPS delivers a practical and supportive standard to growers, whilst ensuring the food safety, legal and trade requirements of retailers, and ultimately, the consumer are satisfied.

We hope you find this newsletter informative. Feel free to visit the HARPS website www.harpsonline.com.au or call the HARPS Helpline 1300 852 219 for any queries.

HARPS Version 2.0 Launch date and Timeline for Transition

The HARPS Version 2.0 Standard will launch 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’s new in Version 2.0

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?”.

Support 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 Auditors, Growers and Suppliers. This will be offered both online and face-to-face with further information provided closer to the launch date;

As always, you can contact us via the HARPS Website by filling in an enquiry form or contact the HARPS Helpline.

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 2’s 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 2’s 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. Look out for our interview with Wade Mann of Family Fresh Farms to hear about his experiences during the very first Version 2.0 pilot audit.

HARPS Version 2.0 Pilot Audit with Family Fresh Farms

Wade Mann, Senior Grower and
Nicky Mann, Labour & WHS Manager
from Family Fresh Farms

Family Fresh Farms is a five-hectare, high-tech glasshouse producer of snacking cucumbers, commonly known as Qukes, located on the Central coast of NSW. The daily picking, packing and dispatch from this facility runs year-round. Whilst the business is categorised as Tier 2 for HARPS, Family Fresh Farms pre-pack the final product ready for retail, delivering directly to the distribution centres of four major supermarket retailers in Australia. From the outset, Family Fresh Farms has aspired to nurture a strong food safety culture, given the versatility of Qukes as an instant and ready-to-eat product as a snack or in meals. Family Fresh Farms were not only proud to be considered to participate in the HARPS Version 2.0 Pilot Audit, but to achieve approval to HARPS V2.0 was a very gratifying outcome for the entire Family Fresh Farms Team.

Wade Mann, our key contact on the day, is the Senior Grower Manager at Family Fresh Farms and has been a member of the H-TAG since April 2021. We approached Wade to participate in the first Version 2.0 pilot, given his depth of experience during the development of Version 2.0. Family Fresh Farms are Tier 2 growers and packers that use the Freshcare Food Safety and Quality Standard as their GFSI scheme for HARPS. The certification body, AUS-QUAL, also provided their support to the process with discussions with the HARPS auditor prior to the audit date.

One Direction ANZ: Wade, congratulations on being the first business to achieve approval to HARPS Version 2.0. Can you give us your overall impression of how you think the pilot audit to the Version 2.0 Standard went?

Wade Mann: Thank you for the compliment. It was a truly proud moment for the entire Family Fresh Farms Team. It was certainly our intention to cover as many of the Elements of the HARPS V2.0 Pilot Audit as possible on our own, but in conjunction with the updated Guidance Section as the cornerstone to our responses and outcomes. We made every attempt to be thorough in our preparation and execution of the audit but were comforted by the support of the team from HARPS who were present in an observation role primarily, but also to clarify and articulate any specific requirements of an element that we had not addressed sufficiently. There were certainly some anxious moments during the day, but on the whole the audit ran smoothly and whilst we were not devoid of a few deficiencies, we were able to promptly adjust and correct our course, to ensure a successful audit outcome.

One Direction ANZ: What do you and your team think were the key changes for your business between Version 1.0 and Version 2.0?

Wade Mann: Essentially there is more prescriptive detail in Version 2.0 and less ambiguity in the requirement, from our perspective. There is more rigour in the new standard, but this has inadvertently led to a better understanding of the elements in our pursuit to maintain both high levels of food safety and retailer compliance. There were areas that had been previously given the “tick and flick” approach, but certainly granted closer scrutiny under V2.0 and created better outcomes. 

One Direction ANZ: Did you think the new format of the Standard was helpful?
Wade Mann: Without any doubt, the updated and expanded version of the guidance section per element, was of significant assistance and gave our team a clear picture of the requirement. We believe this created less confusion with some valuable background in relation to the element.

One Direction ANZ: Were there any sections of the Standard that you felt might cause confusion? Or did any elements leave you wondering why they were in fact a part of the standard?

Wade Mann: I don’t believe there were any elements or sections of the Standard that created confusion or left us wondering why they had been implemented. However, there was some internal deliberation and perhaps logistical issues in regard to Section 5.12 which relates to, in loose terms, the accountability of unused packaging materials. Given our portal is “live” with very regular updates (and unfortunately cancellations too) of orders from all four major supermarket retailers and having days with multiple runs per retailer and per line – we have had to make some further in-house adjustments to fulfill this requirement and without compromise to our efficiency and effectiveness of our packing procedure.