What is HARPS?
HARPS stands for the Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme (HARPS). It is a world-first scheme, that harmonises all retailer-specific food safety, trade and legal requirements of each of Australia’s five major grocery retailers (ALDI, Coles, Woolworths, Costco and Metcash) as well as Harris Farm Markets and Hello Fresh into one scheme that all these retailers accept – so, instead of having multiplel food safety audits, there is only one. McDonald’s is also a member of the Retailer Committee.
More information is on the HARPS website.
What Hort Innovation projects relate to HARPS?
The following projects led to the development of HARPS:
- AH11025 - Partnering fresh produce with retail
- AH12016 Partnering fresh produce with retail: quality assurance harmonisation
- AH14015 QA Harmonisation – Implementation
- VG16059 Stakeholder consultation - untreated manures, quality assurance and management.
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 Limited using across-industry levies and funds from the Australian Government. The scheme is voluntary and application for certification is open to all fresh produce businesses that supply the major grocery and other retailers. The project has been supported by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Food and Grocery Council.
Over time, HARPS transitioned from being a project funded by Hort Innovation to a standalone entity, generating its own finances, in May 2020.
How is HARPS funded?
Contributions that support the ongoing management and development of HARPS are received from HARPS participating retailers, as well as certification bodies and auditors that are responsible for auditing HARPS. Operational contributions are also received from growers and suppliers that are audited ($245.00 + GST per audit) and collected on behalf of HARPS by certification bodies.
When was HARPS launched?
HARPS was launched in October 2016 and the major retailers accepted HARPS audits as an alternative to their own specific standards from this date.
As of January 2022, more than 1,400 suppliers are now HARPS approved.
Do I have to use HARPS?
HARPS is a voluntary scheme and is only for suppliers to the major grocery retailers (ALDI, Coles, Woolworths, Costco and Metcash) as well as Harris Farm Markets and Hello Fresh – so, growers can still supply farmers markets, central markets and independent green grocers without HARPS.
Who owns HARPS?
Hort Innovation initiated a series of projects to develop a process for achieving harmonisation of food safety requirements of the major grocery retailers and an auditor competency scheme, resulting in the development of HARPS. The first project started in 2011.
HARPS is a program that Hort Innovation owns and includes:
- the HARPS database
- HARPS branding including the HARPS logo
- HARPS website content
- HARPS standards, checklists, rules, assessments, checklists, protocols, matrixes.
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 the Stakeholder Working Group?
The Stakeholder Working Group, also known as the HARPS Retailer Committee, is made up of representatives from major grocery retailers (ALDI, Coles, Woolworths, Costco and Metcash) as well as Harris Farm Markets, Hello Fresh and McDonald’s Australia. Industry representatives are also invited to attend the retailer workshops as observers.
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.
What does the transition from a Hort Innovation funded project to One Direction ANZ mean for HARPS?
The ownership of HARPS remains with Hort Innovation, One Direction ANZ are responsible for the day-to-day management of HARPS. This includes promoting HARPS within the horticulture and retail sectors, issuing Approval Certificates, and developing, maintaining, monitoring and enforcing policies and procedures for auditors and certification bodies. This includes organising and facilitating meetings and workshops with retailers through the Stakeholder Working Group and the HARPS Technical Advisory Group (H-TAG) which includes membership from across the horticultural supply chain including Peak Industry Bodies, certification bodies and growers.
What are the responsibilities and accountabilities of auditors?
HARPS conducts calibration sessions for existing auditors and training of new auditors to ensure accuracy and consistency in interpretation 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 is the HARPS Technical Advisory Group (HTAG)?
The HARPS Technical Advisory Group is made up of suppliers, growers, peak industry bodies, industry associations, auditors and scheme owners. It started in 2017 to enable other stakeholders to engage with retailers. Objectives include:
- Industry Approach: key decisions adopt a “whole of supply chain” and risk-based approach
- Element Review: current elements that have resulted in challenges or complaints are reviewed and amended; ensuring they are practical and realistic
- Root Cause Analysis: issues leading to recalls, withdrawals or major nonconformances are investigated and elements refined as necessary
- Ongoing Improvement: learn from incidents and include improvements in future revisions of HARPS including Version 2.0
The HARPS Technical Advisory Group includes representation from Tier 1 growers that work closely with their Tier 2 growers and provides recommendations and guidance to the HARPS Retailer Committee. Hort Innovation is also a member of H-TAG. HARPS always welcomes additional input from all industry stakeholders. If you would like to apply to become a member of the Technical Advisory Group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Since release, how has HARPS contributed to improved food safety?
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 any one or more of the GFSI standards. Retailers identified specific issues that 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.
Is there duplication with other standards such as Freshcare?
HARPS can be considered a bolt-on standard. It bolts on to GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) benchmark standards. These standards are a foundation for food safety and include Freshcare, GLOBAL.G.A.P., SQF and BRCGS. There is no expectation that a grower or supplier would need to duplicate any requirements that already exist within the GFSI standard(s) they have selected. Requirements have been included in HARPS if they are missing from one or more of these standards.
I am already certified to a base scheme, so why do I need HARPS?
HARPS has been designed to enhance the rigour around specific food safety, trade and regulatory criteria that do not appear in the GFSI base schemes. Retailers have never accepted the base schemes alone, and prior to HARPS, each retailer has 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 version 2.0 - FAQS
Why is 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 details criteria for these sections and uses other learnings that have been gathered since the development of HARPS 1.0 (which was developed in 2015).
What's changed in the new standard (HARPS 2.0)?
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 providing 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. This will aid the correct interpretation of each element and therefore also the ease of implementation.
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?”.
Why was the public consultation period so short/over Christmas?
The development of the HARPS 2.0 standard started in July 2020. This involved a draft document being developed by an external third party following a competitive tender process The standard was then reviewed by both the HARPS Technical Advisory Group and the HARPS retailers. It took five months to reach the final draft that was released 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.
Industry consultation for HARPS 2.0 has just concluded. What process will HARPS follow now that feedback is submitted?
All feedback received was subject to review. The HARPS Management Team has worked with the HARPS Technical Advisory Group to develop recommendations for changes that have been reviewed by the HARPS Retailer Committee. The HARPS Retailer Committee has reviewed all recommendations and provided a response. Discussion and negotiation continued between both groups until an agreement was reached on the best approach to meet the desired outcomes.
Responses will be provided to industry and all parties that provided feedback, in the form of an extensive Q&A once the information has been reviewed and considered by the HARPS Technical Advisory Group and HARPS Retailer Committee. The Q&A available on the HARPS website, provides answers to the questions raised in the feedback.
The current communication channels (HARPS Helpline, email and website) are still available for any additional queries.
When will HARPS 2.0 be released?
The HARPS Version 2.0 Standard will launch on 17 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 17 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 17 April 2023 (i.e. from 17 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 16October 2023 (i.e. from 16 October 2023 Tier 2 suppliers will NOT be able to use HARPS Version 1.0).
When HARPS 2.0 is released, will there be a transition period?
As stated above:
- From 17 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 17 April 2023 (i.e., from 17 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 16October 2023 (i.e., from 16 October 2023 Tier 2 suppliers will NOT be able to use HARPS Version 1.0).
Why has mandatory training been proposed in HARPS 2.0?
Training requirements are no different in Version 2.0 to Version 1.0, however, there is additional clarity provided on the specific units of competency required for HACCP Training. In addition, there is a mandatory requirement for all training providers to be a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).
Who are HARPS approved training providers?
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.
Version 2.0 Transition Training will be provided via a series of videos on the HARPS website. These are available to industry for viewing free of charge.
A Request for Proposal has recently been submitted to training providers to invite businesses to tender for Version 2.0 Training. Keep an eye out on the HARPS website for further information on training providers.