Citrus growers called to upgrade to new food safety system
A significant change in how citrus growers manage food safety is imminent with peak industry body Citrus Australia calling on growers to get on board now and take advantage of available help.
“If you grow any table citrus including mandarins, navels, grapefruit, lemons or limes, to be sold in the major supermarkets then this applies to you,” said Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock.
The changes have come about as retailers work with Hort Innovation to simplify the red tape that multiple food safety audits have created.
Under the new system called HARPS (Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme), growers must now meet one of three base schemes for food safety: Global GAP, SQF or Freshcare.
“Many growers have relied on HACCP up until now. However, the HARPS system does not recognise HACCP as a food safety system,” said Nathan.
“I share the opinion that HACCP provides a good set of food safety principles but on their own, they are not a system that can be audited. However, many of the HACCP principles are evident in the three recommended systems.”
Citrus Australia supports the continuous improvement of the industry to meet food safety obligations and is a member of Freshcare – the fresh produce industry’s own on-farm assurance program – because it is a system developed by growers, for growers, using research and development levies.
“To assist growers to become compliant we have put resources into becoming Freshcare trainers and are offering training direct to growers,” said Nathan.
“We want to help growers achieve a successful audit and offer post-training services as part of our initial training cost to help ensure growers are audit-ready.”
Growers need to be well prepared before audits because they can be very expensive. Auditors often will remain on site until all non-compliant issues are rectified or, worse, have to return at a later date to conduct a second audit to close out issues.
Citrus Australia ran six Freshcare training sessions last week and have more sessions planned over the next three months in the Sunraysia, Murray Valley, Riverina and Riverland citrus-growing regions.
“Increasingly we are seeing importing country governments implement food safety standards as they look to protect their populations,” said Nathan.
“Likewise, imported produce to Australia is held to very high standards – often Global GAP with additional microbial tests and maximum residue limit testing, as well as a new push to meet ethical standards.”
Growers have until the end of this year to complete training and have an audit done during harvest.