Food safety for horticulture producers
Food Safety for Victorian horticulture producers
On August 2022, three new national horticulture primary production and processing standards were introduced into the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code: Standards 4.2.7, 4.2.8 and 4.2.9 – Primary Production and Processing Standards for berries, leafy vegetables, and melons.
Standards were developed through Proposal P1052, led by Food Standards Australia New Zealand and aim to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness. The transition period to implement standards ends on 12 February 2025.
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Under the Food Act 1984, all producers (of all commodities) have an obligation to ensure that food for sale is safe and suitable for human consumption and to comply with the Food Standards Code, where applicable.
The three new standards introduce further specific requirements and will be regulated by Agriculture Victoria.
Agriculture Victoria is determining how standards will be implemented and enforced in Victoria. Interim information can be found on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Website.
Until February 2025, there are no new requirements for businesses. All producers continue to have the general obligation to ensure that food for sale is safe and suitable for human consumption.
While still under development, after February 2025 Agriculture Victoria intends to require impacted businesses to:
- Register with Agriculture Victoria
- Demonstrate they are compliant with the new standards
Agriculture Victoria is will have powers to verify / audit compliance, take enforcement action if not compliant, and charge fees associated with these activities, commensurate with the size or throughput of the business.
Agriculture Victoria is working with industry representative bodies to design an efficient approach to these requirements, including developing regulations that are proportionate to risk.
To be compliant with the Food Standards Code, Agriculture Victoria will need to be satisfied that leafy vegetable and melon businesses have a current, compliant food safety management statement (a requirement under the new standards) and are operating according to this statement. Berry producers will only need to notify Agriculture Victoria as to how they are addressing the standard.
Business participation in a Global Food Safety Initiative scheme (i.e. Freshcare) could be recognised by Agriculture Victoria as already meeting these requirements, and work is underway to facilitate this approach. Recognition will aim to reduce regulatory burden for businesses.
If a business is not certified under a recognised Global Food Safety Initiative scheme, Agriculture Victoria will be required to verify directly with that business its compliance with the Food Standards Code, likely via an audit.
Initial consultation has begun with peak industry bodies to assist in regulatory design.
Agriculture Victoria will engage with growers, including to discuss onboarding processes, from mid-2024. This engagement will continue after the February 2025 implementation date. Our regulatory aim is to take a proportionate and reasonable approach to these new requirements.
Three new standards were prepared by Food Standards Australia New Zealand between 2018 and 2022, with a decision taken by the Food Ministers’ Forum to introduce standards in 2022.
The standard development process involved extensive stakeholder consultation, including two formal public calls for submission. Evidence considered included technical assessments of food safety risks, cost benefit analysis, a decision regulation impact statement, and consideration of implementation arrangements. Industry was provided opportunity to engage throughout this process, including through formal submissions, farm visits and technical advisory roles.
Implementation of new standards is now the responsibility of individual state governments. An Implementation Working Group led by NSW Department of Primary Industries is working to coordinate efforts and ensure – where possible – national consistency.
Standard 4.2.7 – Primary Production and Processing Standard for Berries
Standard 4.2.7 – Primary Production and Processing Standard for Berries requires growers and primary processors (e.g. pack-house) to identify and control food safety hazards associated with berry growing and primary processing, and to notify regulators of their activities.
- Berries are defined in the standard as fresh berries and includes berries such as strawberries, blueberries, and berries from the genus Rubus.
- Examples of berries included are, but not limited to those listed and raspberries, blackberries, boysenberry, loganberry, silvanberry and youngberry.
Standard 4.2.8 – Primary Production and Processing Standard for Leafy Vegetables
Standard 4.2.8 – Primary Production and Processing Standard for Leafy Vegetables requires growers and primary processors (e.g. pack-house) to identify and control food safety hazards associated with growing and primary processing of leafy vegetables and to have an approved food safety management statement which includes notifying regulators of their activities.
Leafy vegetables have been defined in the standard as vegetables of a leafy nature where the leaf is consumed raw; and includes baby leaves, lettuce, and leafy herbs; and does not include seed sprouts (requirements found in a separate standard).
- Examples of leafy vegetables include but are not limited to all lettuces (iceberg (crisphead), rocket, romaine (cos), red leaf, butterhead, endive, oak leaf, watercress, radicchio, baby leaf, battavia, all other loose-leaf lettuces), kale, chicory, watercress, swiss chard, Asian leafy greens (e.g. bok choy), all leafy herbs consumed raw (e.g. parsley, basil, coriander, dill, fennel leaves, mint, thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, chives), spring onions, microgreens, spinach leaves, silverbeet and cabbage.
- Examples of vegetables that are not considered leafy vegetables include broccoli, broccolini, cauliflower, asparagus, artichoke, root and tuber vegetables, bulb vegetables, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, rhubarb, squash, celery, and leek.
Standard 4.2.9 – Primary Production and Processing Standard for Melons
Standard 4.2.9 – Primary Production and Processing Standard for Melons requires growers and primary processors (e.g. pack-house) to identify and control food safety hazards associated with the growing and primary processing of melons and to have an approved food safety management statement which includes notifying regulators of their activities.
- Melons have been defined in the standard as fresh melons and includes watermelon, rockmelon, honeydew melon and piel de sapo.
- Examples of melons included are, but not limited to those listed and, galia melon, charentais melon, Korean melon, hami melon.
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