In 2012 Horticulture Australia Ltd (now Horticulture Innovation Australia) 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). The HARPS project has been funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia Ltd 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 undertake the following activities:
- All vendors growing whole produce for retail sale
- All vendors packing whole produce for retail sale
- All distributors/brokers/agents supplying whole produce for retail sale
The scope of the HARPS is for the growing and packing of whole produce. The scope does not include the processing or value-adding of produce.
All the major grocery retailers in Australia participate in this program, including:
- Coles Supermarkets
- Metcash (IGA)
The HARPS project has resulted in the alignment of the major grocery retailers in Australia accepting a suite of Food Safety standards that will allow growers and packers to complete a single audit against a single standard that will satisfy all stakeholders, rather than audits against multiple standards.
The major Australian grocery retailers including ALDI, Coles, Costco, Metcash and Woolworths, have worked together collaboratively under the Stakeholder Working Group (SWG) to identify and develop a harmonized solution that will help reduce the cost and complexity for growers in meeting the requirements of different retailers. The project was supported by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC).
The SWG retailers identified requirements in addition to the accepted standards and harmonized these additional elements that are common to, and accepted by, all stakeholders down to approximately 60 elements. These are now termed the HARPS Elements. HARPS is managed and administered by PMA Australia & New Zealand.