The end of February marked the half-way point for Citrus Australia’s Freshcare group training sessions. Rolling out across the Riverland, Riverina and Murray Valley regions, Citrus Australia’s Nicole Zerveas says the training has been pivotal in helping growers adjust to a changing approval process.
“Some growers have needed a little more clarification, so we’ve been able to provide that,” she said.
“Major fresh produce retailers such as Coles or Woolworths require direct suppliers (like pack houses) to be HARPS approved. These suppliers require growers to be approved to one of four base schemes; Freshcare, BRC, GlobalGap or SQF, by January 1st, 2019.”
The training sessions provide attendees with extensive training in Freshcare’s Food Safety & Quality Edition 4 (FSQ4). So far, the sessions have seen an attendance of 10-12 growers and grower/packers per session. Most attendees have been citrus growers or grower/packers, but some have been growers with additional crops like nuts and stone fruit. There are still five sessions yet to take place.
To be approved, growers need to undergo a Food Safety & Quality audit during harvest. Citrus Australia recommends having the initial and all recertification audits take place as close to harvest as practically possible, otherwise follow-up visits, proof of compliance and other processes will be required.
Ms Zerveas says that food safety and quality is very high on domestic and international market agendas.
“Food safety events such as the current listeria outbreak have a negative impact on consumer confidence. Freshcare allows grower/packers to have confidence in how they manage their food safety risks on their farm, which has a flow on effect to retailers and consumers,” she said.