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Fresh produce compliance

 

7 Steps to implement fresh produce compliance

  1. Identify required standards
  2. Use of pesticides in fresh produce farming
  3. Contamination compliance
  4. Marketing standards compliance
  5. Certification
  6. Fresh produce labelling
  7. Cold chain compliance

This example uses the European Union as an example target market for fresh produce food safety compliance.  Europe is very demanding about food safety, which is why dealing with fresh agricultural products is subject to various legal and other buyer requirements. But there are also opportunities to distinguish yourself by applying additional or niche market quality standards. This document provides an overview of the most common requirements and standards, as well as the specific requirements that apply to niche markets such as organic or Fair trade fruit and vegetables.

1. Identify required standards

Determine which standards apply to your fresh produce enterprise. These are usually determined by the destination market place of your fresh produce. For example, if your fresh produce will be sold in the European Union then EU standards will be set by the European Commission and will include such as EU Fruits & Vegetables standards.

Which legal and non-legal requirements must your product comply with?

When exporting fresh fruit and vegetables to Europe, you have to comply with the requirements below. These requirements can be categorized as:

  1. food safety;
  2. product quality;
  3. social, environmental and business compliance.

For a full list of legal requirements, please consult the EU Trade Help-desk.

2. Use of pesticide in fresh produce farming

To avoid health and environmental risks, the European Union (EU) has set maximum residue levels (MRLs) for pesticides in and on food products. Products containing more pesticides than allowed will be withdrawn from the European market.

Note that buyers in several Member States such as the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria use MRLs which are stricter than the MRLs laid down in European legislation. Supermarket chains are the strictest and demand 33% to 70% of the legal MRL.

More and more buyers ask for upfront information about your pesticide spray programs and records. Shipments are checked before they are sent to the retailer. Pesticide management takes a lot of responsibility on your part as a producer or exporter.

Pesticide tips:

  • Use the EU Pesticide Database to find out the MRLs that are relevant for your products. You can select your product or a pesticide and the database shows the list of associated MRLs.
  • Apply integrated pest management (IPM) to reduce the amount of pesticides. IPM is an agricultural pest control strategy which is also part of GLOBALG.A.P. certification. It uses natural control practices such as the application of pests’ natural enemies. The fewer chemicals you use, the better your marketing position will be for export to Europe.
  • Always check whether your buyers have additional requirements for MRLs and pesticide use.

3. Contamination compliance

Fresh produce compliance for fresh produce safety is extremely important to protect consumers from contaminated or tainted fresh produce.  This article seeks to examine the microbial, chemical and physical contamination challenges of fresh produce products. Fresh produce contamination is generally defined as foods that are spoiled or tainted because they either contain microorganisms,such as bacteria or parasites, or toxic substances that make them unfit for consumption. A fresh produce contaminant can be biological, chemical or physical in nature, with the former being more common.

Contaminants are substances that have not been intentionally added to food, but may be present as a result of the various stages of its production, packaging, transport or holding. Similar to the MRLs for pesticides, the European Union has set limits for several contaminants. Especially the limits for nitrate (in spinach and lettuce) and heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, mercury and inorganic tin, are relevant for fresh fruit and vegetables. For most fresh fruit or vegetables the limit for lead contamination is 0,10 mg/kg and for cadmium 0,050 mg/kg.

Tips:

Microbiological criteria for pre-cut fruit

When supplying pre-cut fruit and vegetables, as well as unpasteurised juices or sprouted seeds, you must take into account microbiological hazards such as salmonella and E. coli. These substances should be absent when testing your product. European Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 will provide you with information about testing methods, sampling plan and measuring limits.

Microbiological tip:
  • Make sure to maintain excellent hygiene practices in your production process to avoid microbiological contamination. Work with hygiene standards and risk assessment such as HACCP. See the certification schemes below, such as BRC and IFS, which are based on HACCP principles.

Plant health

Fruit and vegetables exported to the European Union must comply with European legislation on plant health. The European Union has laid down phytosanitary requirements to prevent the introduction and spread of organisms harmful to plants and plant products in Europe. These requirements are managed by the competent food safety authorities in the importing and exporting countries. Most importantly, your home country needs to have phytosanitary agreements with the European Union in place. Otherwise, you will not be allowed to export to Europe.

The following fruit and vegetables are subject to health inspections and require phytosanitary certificates prior to shipping:

  • leafy vegetables (celery, basil);
  • citrus fruit;
  • kumquat;
  • eggplant;
  • persimmon (kaki):
  • apple;
  • pear;
  • mango;
  • passion fruit;
  • plums;
  • guava;
  • currants;
  • blueberry;
  • several exotic products such as rose apple, soursop (guanábana), quince and bitter cucumber.

You can find these products and their Latin names in Annex V, Part B (p. 163) of the European Plant Health Directive 2000/29/EC.

Plant health tips:

  • Verify with the National Plant Protection Organisation or food safety authority in your country whether and under which conditions you can export fresh fruit and vegetables to Europe. These authorities normally work with international standards, but always check with your buyer as well.
  • Read more about plant health on the EU Trade Helpdesk. A model phytosanitary certificate can be found through Annex VII (p. 170) of the Plant Health Directive.

These contaminants have several routes throughout the supply chain (farm to fork) to enter and make a fresh produce product unfit for consumption. Bacillus cereusCampylobacterjejuniClostridium botulinumC. perfrigens,Pathogenic Escherichia coliListeria monocytogenesSalmonella spp., Shigella spp.,Pathogenic Staphylococcus aureusVibrio choleraV.parahaemolyticusV. vulnificus and Yersiniaenterocolitica are common bacterial hazards (a type of biologicalcontaminant). Chemical fresh produce contaminants that can enter the fresh produce supply chain include pesticides, heavy metals, and other chemical agents.

Fresh produce compliance HACCP GLOBALG.A.P
Fresh produce compliance

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized fresh produce contamination as a global challenge in several documents and reports [1,2]. It is clearly acknowledged in a statement:“fresh produce contamination that occurs in one place may affect the health of consumers living on the other side of the planet” [3]. In fact, a vast majority of people experience a food borne or waterborne disease at some point in their lives worldwide. Therefore, consumption of contaminated foods causes illness in millions of people and many die as a result of it. This scenario makes “fresh produce contamination”a serious issue. The list of fresh produce contamination challenges is very long and keeps growing. I would list three challenges, fresh produce contamination, antibiotics in fresh produce products and intentional contamination of foods, to highlight the importance of this topic.

Contamination of fresh produce is emerging as a major fresh produce safety challenge. A recent report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) showed that the highest number of outbreaks was attributed to produce as a single commodity in the USA during 2002–2011 [4]. Similarly, produce caused the greatest number of illnesses and the largest average number of illnesses per outbreak.This is a global trend and can be seen in examples of recent outbreaks: an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 after eating contaminated packaged baby spinach in the EU (2006); E. coli in cucumber outbreak in Germany and other EU countries (2011); an outbreak of Cryptosporidium infection traced to bagged salads in the UK (2012); an outbreak of L.monocytogenes due to contaminated prepacked salad products (2016),and a Salmonella outbreak linked to lettuce in pre-packaged salads in Australia (2016).

The emergence of antibiotic resistance bacteria (ARB) is now accepted a potential threat to both public and environmental health and the WHO has already proposed a global strategy to address the challenge [5]. Publications describing the association and prevalence of ARB in fresh produce products are common now. Previously the clinical arena was the major culprit; however, the overuse of antibiotics in fresh produce production is making the situation more complicated. In brief, foods contaminated with ARB are going to be a major fresh produce safety issue in the future.

Intentional contamination of foods and fresh produce products is also a growing global concern. Intentional fresh produce contamination refers to the deliberate addition of a harmful or poisonous substance to fresh produce products. It is a criminal act and also known as fresh produce fraud.Foods that have been intentionally contaminated are unsafe to eat and can make consumers seriously ill. Therefore, it is also equally important to address the challenge of fraudulent fresh produce contamination.

Finally, I would emphasize that ensuring the supply of safe fresh produce products is important to protect public health and the fresh produce industry. Fresh produce safety is generally compromised when fresh produce products get contaminated with a potentially hazardous and toxic agent.The fresh produce industry faces many global, as well as regional,contamination issues, existing and emerging, at all times, and continues to address them through scientific and technological developments. Therefore, it is vital for fresh produce safety management to understand the nature of contamination, its sources, risks to the consumer, and approaches to eliminate or reduce contamination levels. Sound scientific knowledge is needed to provide fresh produce products that are free of contamination or with a minimal risk of contamination This Special Issue contains articles covering fresh produce contamination issues, challenges and the solutions.

 

4. Marketing standards compliance

European legislation sets general and specific marketing standards for the minimum quality and the minimum maturity of all fresh fruit and vegetables. A marketing standard determines the characteristics of “Extra Class”, Class I and Class II products, the different size codes, and the allowed tolerances in quality and size.

The preferred sizes vary between the different European markets, but the quality is generally “Extra Class” or Class I. You might find a market for Class II products in some eastern European countries, the processing industry or less formal segments.

There are specific marketing standards (MS) for the fresh fruit and vegetables listed below. These products must be accompanied with a certificate of conformity for each consignment. These certificates can be issued by the European control bodies and in some cases by the country of origin. A sample certificate of conformity can be found on p. 115 in Annex III to EU Regulation No 543/2011:

  • apples;
  • citrus fruit;
  • kiwi fruit;
  • lettuce, curly and broad-leaved endives;
  • peaches and nectarines;
  • pears;
  • strawberries;
  • sweet peppers;
  • table grapes;
  • tomatoes.

Fresh products that are not covered by a specific marketing standard have to comply with:

Operators are free to choose whether to work with the EU or UNECE standard. If your product is not covered by any specific European standard, you can also check for similar standards in the Codex Alimentarius.

Imports of products intended for processing are not subject to compliance with the EU marketing standards. However, they must be clearly marked on the packaging with the words "intended for processing" or other equivalent wording.

Tips:

  • Be on top of quality! If you are not sure, do not send your products but rather look for local alternatives. If you decide to ship your products anyway, be transparent about the quality and discuss this beforehand with your buyer.
  • Check which standards are applicable to your product and make sure that your products and the necessary documentation are in order. By filling in your export details at the EU Trade Helpdesk (product codes in Chapter 7 or 8), you can find the contact details of the official authorities by following the link on marketing standards.
  • Check out the Codex Alimentarius published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to find additional marketing standards for fresh fruits and vegetables.

5. Certification for compliance

HACCP GLOBALG.A.P compliance
HACCP GLOBALG.A.P compliance

Staying on top of food safety certification standards for voluntary QMS is important. As food safety is a top priority in all European food sectors, you can expect most buyers to request extra guarantees from you in the form of certification. All buyers in the supply chain, such as traders, food processors and retailers, require the implementation of a food safety management system based on hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP).

GLOBALG.A.P.

The most commonly requested certification scheme, essential for exporting fresh produce to Europe, is GLOBALG.A.P. This is a pre-farm-gate standard that covers the whole agricultural production process from before the plant is in the ground to the non-processed product (processing not covered). GLOBALG.A.P. focuses on food safety as well as the environment, labour conditions and product quality. It has become a minimum standard for most European supermarkets.

BRC

In addition to GLOBALG.A.P., other food safety management systems can be required as well. Almost all buyers on the north-western European market will require you to comply with the BRC Global Standards, which are widely applied as a standard for hygiene and safety.

IFS, SQF, FSSC 22000

On the European mainland, buyers sometimes require you to comply with the IFS food standard, Safe Quality Food (SQF) programme, FSSC 22000 or other industry-developed standards.

All the mentioned management systems are recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), which means that they are generally accepted by the major retailers. Compliance with certification schemes varies between countries, trade channels and market situations. Buyers can be more lenient during supply shortages.

Tips:

  • Read more about the different food safety standards on the ITC Standards Map or consult the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). It contains a benchmark for relevant additional standards.
  • Become familiar with GLOBALG.A.P., as your EU market entry preparation is likely to include GLOBALG.A.P. certification.
  • Check with your buyer about their preferred food safety management system and certification, as these are often buyer-specific.

6. Labelling and packaging

Food placed on the EU market must meet the legislation on food labelling.

Cartons of fresh fruit or vegetables must mention the following particulars:

  • name and the address of the packer or the dispatcher;
  • name and variety of the produce (if the produce is not visible from the outside of the packaging);
  • country of origin;
  • class and size (referring to the marketing standards);
  • lot number for traceability or GGN if certified GlobalG.A.P. (recommended);
  • official control mark to replace name and address of the packer (optional).

For consumer and pre-packed fresh products, you must add the name and the address of a seller established within the European Union with the words “Packed for:” or an equivalent phrase.

Packaging marketed within Europe must comply with the general requirements, which aim at protecting the environment, as well as with the specific provisions designed to prevent any risk to the health of consumers. The packaging must protect the product against contamination, leakage and dehydration. Also pay attention to your buyer’s preference for presentation, such as individual wrapping or sortation (for example, one side up). Products and packaging should be uniform.

Tips:

Its not just certification for success in the fresh produce supply chain!

Complying with the food safety requirements, quality standards and certifications is a precondition to market fresh products in Europe, but it is still not a guarantee for success. Buyers look for trust and reliability, which means that your soft skills and performance are just as important as your product. Some of the most important things in the fresh trade are a timely delivery, proactive communication and commitment to agreements.

However, good conduct works both ways, so be aware of buyers that have a poor reputation or only show a short-term interest. In this fast-moving and perishable market, sudden decisions are taken, such as “dumping” your products at very low prices when the quality starts to deteriorate or when the demand slows down. European buyers are not eager to accept their loss and rather settle by claiming a quality issue. It is crucial that you can deal professionally with claims, whether they are justified or not.

Tips:

  • First of all, make sure that you are well organised as a company. This organisation includes maintaining a good logistics planning, documenting your shipments (including proof of quality), responding to your emails within a day and being professional in every aspect of the business.
  • Do not put your product in consignment with a buyer whom you do not know. Consignment is not a standard practice any more and it increases your risks significantly.

7. Fresh produce cold chain compliance

Fresh produce compliance
Fresh produce compliance
Fresh produce compliance - Cold Chain Compliance

From the time a piece of fruit or vegetable is harvested, a biological clock begins. Our commitment to the cold chain controls the ripening process and extends the shelf life of produce – giving you less product loss and the best return on your investment.

With decades of experience as a produce distributor, we understand the critical nature of temperature in the life cycle process. That's why we maintain the proper temperature at all times in our 100,000 square foot, totally climate controlled warehouse. There's more. To slow the ripening process, fruits and vegetables require different temperatures. Our individually controlled rooms and coolers allow for temperature variation. One example is our ultra-modern banana rooms featuring ThermalTech TarpLess Ripening Rooms, with sophisticated humidification system and air circulation.

Planning fresh produce compliance

The concern for products that meet the requirements of sustainability is a key factor that drives consumers and can be the engine of a successful economy in the food businesses. In the specific case of the fresh fruit and vegetables, more than ever, sustainability understood as a greater focus on the social and environmental performance of the product and of its supply chain, can be considered as a tool to counter the consumer's disaffection. The communication of the product's sustainability can indeed represent a tool to bring out the fruit and vegetable products from the anonymity, a strategy to will make it ‘remember', relying not only on the traditional values recognized to the segment, but also on a set of the supply chain attributes that can differentiate it. However, how to get effectively to the consumer by using a multidimensional and complex concept as the product's sustainability of the product, how to make the sustainability attribute a factor to be considered in the final purchasing choices, how to involve the different stakeholders in the building of a sustainable supply chain (regardless of its length) are still open discussion topics. After presenting the main sustainability certification and communication tools adopted till nowadays for the fresh fruit and vegetables supply chain, the chapter investigates the relative potentialities and criticisms in order to turn them into a real competitiveness’ asset.

Fresh produce compliance trends

In recent years, the concept of food quality and safety has been intensively traded and the consumer’s level of conscious towards ‘safe’ consumption of fresh produce has risen.Accordingly, the sources of supply of fresh produce and the chains through where the high value horticultural commodities are handled and processed have attempted to improve their production, handling and processing systems to match with the demands of their deserving markets and consumers. In this context,capacity building of the fresh produce supply chain stakeholders in the developing countries which are the source of fresh produce for rest of world becomes an area of prime importance. Phytosanitary risk management program is being implemented in Pakistan, since, 2014. The program, among other research and development chapters, include capacity building of the national plant protection organizations alongside improving the capacity of research,academia, development sectors and the fresh produce industry in the area of Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) compliance in fresh produce supply chains. A group of master trainers was developed by organizing a walk the chain learning experience in a well-structured horticultural industry in South Africa. The master trainers developed a training manual and generated learning guides and conducted follow on stakeholder’s training in whole-of-the-chain context for hundreds of the industry participants. The training program has been acknowledged by the beneficiaries as a complete package for orientation of the fresh produce supply chains, from the point of production to the point of retail, to cater the food compliant of the current food quality and safety requirements. An assessment is being conducted to evaluate the environmental,social and economical impact of the training program for development of future investment priorities in the area.

Fresh produce compliance systems

The Produce Safety rule establishes, for the first time,science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. The rule is part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to implement the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. The final rule went into effect January 26, 2016.

The first major compliance date for large farms, other than sprout operations, is set to begin on January 26, 2018. However, the FDA has announced that routine inspections associated with the Produce Safety rule will not begin until the spring of 2019 to allow time for more guidance, training, technical assistance, and planning. Large sprout operations were required to meet an earlier compliance date: January 26, 2017.

Upcoming Compliance Dates

For covered activities, other than those involving sprouts(which have additional requirements and earlier compliance dates):

  • January 26, 2018: Covered farms for which, on a     rolling basis, the average annual monetary value of produce the farm sold     during the previous 3-year period is more than $500,000.
  • January 28, 2019:     Covered farms for which, on a rolling basis, the average annual monetary     value of produce the farm sold during the previous 3-year period is more     than $250,000 but not more than $500,000 (small businesses).
  • January 27, 2020:     Covered farms for which, on a rolling basis, the average annual monetary     value of produce the farm sold during the previous 3-year period is more     than $25,000 but no more than $250,000 (very     small businesses).

Covered activities involving sprouts covered have separate compliance dates and are subject to all the requirements in the Produce Safety rule including specific requirements for sprout operations noted. The compliance dates for sprout operations are as follows:

  • January 26, 2017: Covered farms for which, on a     rolling basis, the average annual monetary value of produce the farm sold     during the previous 3-year period is more than $500,000.
  • January 26, 2018:     Covered farms for which, on a rolling basis, the average annual monetary     value of produce the farm sold during the previous 3-year period is more     than $250,000 but not more than $500,000 (small businesses).
  • January 28, 2019:     Covered farms for which, on a rolling basis, the average annual monetary     value of produce the farm sold during the previous 3-year period is more     than $25,000 but no more than $250,000 (very     small businesses).

Additional compliance dates for farms eligible for certain exemptions can be found on the FDA’s FSMA Compliance Dates web page.

The definition of“farm” and related terms were revised in the final Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food rule (PC Human Food), and the same definitions of those terms are used in this rule to establish produce safety standards.Operations whose only activities are within the farm definition are not required to register with FDA as food facilities and thus are not subject to the preventive controls regulations. However, on January 4, 2018, FDA announced its intention to initiate rule making that could change the way the requirements in both the PC Human Food and PC Animal Food rules apply to certain facilities that conduct activities similar to those that occur on farms. The FDA intends to exercise enforcement discretion for the requirements in the PC rules for these specific entities and activities until the completion of future rule making related to farm activities. For more information see: Enforcement Discretion for Certain FSMA Provisions fact sheet.

For operations that meet the farm definition, exemptions and modified requirements for the Produce Safety rule are explained in “Exemptions and Variances” and in the Coverage and Exemptions/Exclusions flowchart (PDF: 95KB)

Fresh produce compliance
Fresh produce compliance

 An overview of certification compliance schemes and communication tools for fruit & vegetables

To address this growing demand for sustainability in a way that is appropriate and commensurate with the consumer's needs, a wide variety of schemes have been developed over the past decade—both in the fruit and vegetable supply chain and elsewhere—that differ in terms of their objectives, structure and operating methods. These consist of optional certification tools (voluntary product certification and standards), as well as self‐declaration. The main examples are listed in Table 1. These schemes are not intended to demonstrate compliance with legal requirements. However, when used by operators to facilitate the transition with other actors in the fruit and vegetable supply chain by indicating conformity with legal requirements, it is clear that this type of tool cannot be used to differentiate products on the market.

Certification compliance and standards

With regard to F&V certification schemes, a special arrangement whereby a certificate is issued by a third party guarantees compliance with a certain number of characteristics or attributes of the product or its production method or system, as defined in a standard. These include a wide range of initiatives at different points along the food chain (either before or after leaving the farm, along the entire food chain or in part of it, in all sectors or in a particular market segment). Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has observed a general culture of non-compliance by both the producers, packers, sellers and retailers with respect to the regulations relating to the grading, packing & marking of fresh vegetables intended for sale in the Republic of South Africa throughout the national fresh produce markets and some retailers.

Regulation R69 of 13 February 2009 framed under the Agricultural Product Standards Act (APS Act) 1990 (Act No. 119 of 1990) is to be complied with before end of December 2010. The aforementioned Regulations came into force on the 13th February 2009 through Government Gazette no. 31828 which implied that due compliance by the fresh vegetable industry was immediately expected.

Fresh vegetables shall be packed in accordance with Section 6 and shall be marked in accordance with Section 10 of regulation R69 of the APS Act. Producers are obliged to apply for a Producers’ code or Pack-house code from the DAFF which is a marking requirement for traceability purposes. Producers are to ensure that containers that are packed with fresh vegetables are marked clearly and legibly with the prescribed particulars.

The first batch of products which the DAFF inspectors will focus on are carrots, butternuts, peppers, cucumbers, beetroots, green beans, broccoli, sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and cabbages. Produce such garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and onions are already regulated and need to be fully complied with.

Fresh produce compliance
Fresh produce compliance


The expectation to comply with the marking requirements for the selected products is with immediate effect. When the grace period of four months has lapsed, consignments that do not comply with the marking requirements shall be blocked for sale until all the produce containers/units are marked as per the requirements of R69 of the APS Act.

The first phase of implementation starts from September up to December 2010. During this concession period no consignment of fresh vegetables shall be rejected on the basis of non-compliance however this period should be viewed and used as a grace period to allow the industry to gear towards complete adherence to the Regulations.


From 01 January 2011 onwards, the sale of non-complying vegetable products with respect to packing, marking and labelling requirements shall be prohibited by the DAFF. The prohibition will be effected at the point of sale (at the wholesale or retail level).  

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has observed a general culture of non-compliance by both the producers, packers, sellers and retailers with respect to the regulations relating to the grading, packing & marking of fresh vegetables intended for sale in the Republic of South Africa throughout the national fresh produce markets and some retailers.

Regulation R69 of 13 February 2009 framed under the Agricultural Product Standards Act (APS Act) 1990 (Act No. 119 of 1990) is to be complied with before end of December 2010. The aforementioned Regulations came into force on the 13th February 2009 through Government Gazette no. 31828 which implied that due compliance by the fresh vegetable industry was immediately expected.

Fresh vegetables shall be packed in accordance with Section 6 and shall be marked in accordance with Section 10 of regulation R69 of the APS Act. Producers are obliged to apply for a Producers’ code or Pack-house code from the DAFF which is a marking requirement for traceability purposes. Producers are to ensure that containers that are packed with fresh vegetables are marked clearly and legibly with the prescribed particulars.

The first batch of products which the DAFF inspectors will focus on are carrots, butternuts, peppers, cucumbers, beetroots, green beans, broccoli, sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and cabbages. Produce such garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and onions are already regulated and need to be fully complied with.

The expectation to comply with the marking requirements for the selected products is with immediate effect. When the grace period of four months has lapsed, consignments that do not comply with the marking requirements shall be blocked for sale until all the produce containers/units are marked as per the requirements of R69 of the APS Act.

Fresh produce food safety compliance implementation phases

The first phase of implementation starts from September up to December 2010. During this concession period no consignment of fresh vegetables shall be rejected on the basis of non-compliance however this period should be viewed and used as a grace period to allow the industry to gear towards complete adherence to the Regulations.

From 01 January 2011 onwards, the sale of non-complying vegetable products with respect to packing, marking and labelling requirements shall be prohibited by the DAFF. The prohibition will be effected at the point of sale (at the wholesale or retail level).  

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has observed a general culture of non-compliance by both the producers, packers, sellers and retailers with respect to the regulations relating to the grading, packing & marking of fresh vegetables intended for sale in the Republic of South Africa throughout the national fresh produce markets and some retailers.

Regulation R69 of 13 February 2009 framed under the Agricultural Product Standards Act (APS Act) 1990 (Act No. 119 of 1990) is to be complied with before end of December 2010. The aforementioned Regulations came into force on the 13th February 2009 through Government Gazette no. 31828 which implied that due compliance by the fresh vegetable industry was immediately expected.

Fresh vegetables shall be packed in accordance with Section 6 and shall be marked in accordance with Section 10 of regulation R69 of the APS Act. Producers are obliged to apply for a Producers’ code or Pack-house code from the DAFF which is a marking requirement for traceability purposes. Producers are to ensure that containers that are packed with fresh vegetables are marked clearly and legibly with the prescribed particulars.

The first batch of products which the DAFF inspectors will focus on are carrots, butternuts, peppers, cucumbers, beetroots, green beans, broccoli, sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and cabbages. Produce such garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and onions are already regulated and need to be fully complied with.

Marketing compliance

The expectation to comply with the marking requirements for the selected products is with immediate effect. When the grace period of four months has lapsed, consignments that do not comply with the marking requirements shall be blocked for sale until all the produce containers/units are marked as per the requirements of R69 of the APS Act.

The first phase of implementation starts from September up to December 2010. During this concession period no consignment of fresh vegetables shall be rejected on the basis of non-compliance however this period should be viewed and used as a grace period to allow the industry to gear towards complete adherence to the Regulations.


From 01 January 2011 onwards, the sale of non-complying vegetable products with respect to packing, marking and labelling requirements shall be prohibited by the DAFF. The prohibition will be effected at the point of sale (at the wholesale or retail level).  

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has observed a general culture of non-compliance by both the producers, packers, sellers and retailers with respect to the regulations relating to the grading, packing & marking of fresh vegetables intended for sale in the Republic of South Africa throughout the national fresh produce markets and some retailers.

Regulation R69 of 13 February 2009 framed under the Agricultural Product Standards Act (APS Act) 1990 (Act No. 119 of 1990) is to be complied with before end of December 2010. The aforementioned Regulations came into force on the 13th February 2009 through Government Gazette no. 31828 which implied that due compliance by the fresh vegetable industry was immediately expected.

Fresh vegetables shall be packed in accordance with Section 6 and shall be marked in accordance with Section 10 of regulation R69 of the APS Act. Producers are obliged to apply for a Producers’ code or Pack-house code from the DAFF which is a marking requirement for traceability purposes. Producers are to ensure that containers that are packed with fresh vegetables are marked clearly and legibly with the prescribed particulars.

The first batch of products which the DAFF inspectors will focus on are carrots, butternuts, peppers, cucumbers, beetroots, green beans, broccoli, sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and cabbages. Produce such garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and onions are already regulated and need to be fully complied with.

Food safety compliance
Fresh produce food safety compliance

Compliance certificates

Summary of the main certificates and other tools used in the fruit and vegetable supply chain. Their use is particularly apt, given how complex the operator's commitments are, set out in detailed standards that require periodic verification. Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has observed a general culture of non-compliance by both the producers, packers, sellers and retailers with respect to the regulations relating to the grading, packing & marking of fresh vegetables intended for sale in the Republic of South Africa throughout the national fresh produce markets and some retailers.

Regulation R69 of 13 February 2009 framed under the Agricultural Product Standards Act (APS Act) 1990 (Act No. 119 of 1990) is to be complied with before end of December 2010. The aforementioned Regulations came into force on the 13th February 2009 through Government Gazette no. 31828 which implied that due compliance by the fresh vegetable industry was immediately expected.

Fresh vegetables shall be packed in accordance with Section 6 and shall be marked in accordance with Section 10 of regulation R69 of the APS Act. Producers are obliged to apply for a Producers’ code or Pack-house code from the DAFF which is a marking requirement for traceability purposes. Producers are to ensure that containers that are packed with fresh vegetables are marked clearly and legibly with the prescribed particulars.

The first batch of products which the DAFF inspectors will focus on are carrots, butternuts, peppers, cucumbers, beetroots, green beans, broccoli, sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and cabbages. Produce such garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and onions are already regulated and need to be fully complied with.

Fresh produce compliance for fruit & vegetables
Fresh produce compliance for fruit & vegetables

The expectation to comply with the marking requirements for the selected products is with immediate effect. When the grace period of four months has lapsed, consignments that do not comply with the marking requirements shall be blocked for sale until all the produce containers/units are marked as per the requirements of R69 of the APS Act.

The first phase of implementation starts from September up to December 2010. During this concession period no consignment of fresh vegetables shall be rejected on the basis of non-compliance however this period should be viewed and used as a grace period to allow the industry to gear towards complete adherence to the Regulations.

From 01 January 2011 onwards, the sale of non-complying vegetable products with respect to packing, marking and labelling requirements shall be prohibited by the DAFF. The prohibition will be effected at the point of sale (at the wholesale or retail level).

Among the voluntary standards certified by third parties, Global Gap (until 2007 EurepGap), an initiative of the Euro‐Retailer Produce Working Group (EUREP), is currently one of the initiatives with the most members in Europe and worldwide [17]. Certification is based on compliance with Good Agriculture Practices (hence the acronym GAP) for agricultural produce of plant origin. This addresses consumer expectations in terms of food safety, traceability, the environment and health and safety of workers. The protocol can be adopted for individual phases or for the entire supply chain, with a module‐based certification system in which option 1 is for farms, while option 2 includes quality system management by commercial farms and F&V packaging, which take place downstream of agricultural production.


In addition to third‐party certification, certification schemes may use labels or logos (the latter sometimes registered trademarks) as a communication tool. The labels used fall into the following classifications and descriptions of the International Standards Organisation (ISO):

  • Type I label (ISO 14024)—often referred to as an eco‐label[1] -, this is awarded by third parties in the public or private sector which operate independently of the producer. They involve the use of a logo associated with the certified product. These are based on a multi‐criteria system that analyses each stage of the product life cycle, identifying the threshold values to be met;
  • Type III label (ISO 14025)—in this case, an accredited third‐party certification body analyses the entire product life cycle based on parameters previously established by a life cycle analysis (LCA); this system can be used with any type of production. The aim was to inform consumers by providing elements enabling them to compare functionally similar goods and services.

In the case of the Type I label used in the fruit and vegetable supply chain, the majority of organic production logos and the European environmental quality logo (Ecolabel) fall into this category for the primary sector. The other label in this category is the carbon neutral label; this is becoming increasingly widespread, especially among operators who produce and market tropical fruit.

In the case of AgroFair, the first farming cooperative in the world to market tropical fruit such as bananas and pineapple under the fair trade and welfare banner, the goal has been to extend fair trade and welfare recognition through additional certification demonstrating zero‐emissions production. A similar approach has been taken by Dole Costa Rica to comply with environmental strategies defined according to the Costa Rica Carbon Neutral Strategy 2021 [18].

The EPD® (Environmental Product Declaration), a document that quantifies a product's environmental performance through appropriate categories of parameters calculated with LCA methodology, is considered Type III labelling. One example of the application to the F&V supply chain is Italian apples, produced under the aegis of the Italian Association of Apple Producers (Assomela). Here, an LCA was used to quantify the environmental impacts associated with the life cycle of apples in relation to the 2012, 2013 and 2014 harvest [19].

Food Safety Compliance

We have established the highest set of standards to safeguard food safety – and provide you with the highest quality, safest possible products and peace of mind.

We monitor the quality and sanitary control until your products are safely in your hands. From the start, we work with growers who meet requirements for safety. Our warehouse is free of contaminants, clean and properly cooled.

Our high standards and extraordinary level of food safety are maintained with GFS food safety program and a Food Safety Inspector who monitors and audits the entire operation.

Organic market requirements

In addition to the official and common requirements, specific requirements apply to niche markets such as organic fruit and vegetables.

Organic, a growing niche market

An increasing number of European consumers prefer food products that are produced and processed using natural methods. Organic fruit and vegetables have a higher cost of production but are also better valued on the European market.

To market organic products in the European Union, you have to use organic production methods, which are laid down in EU legislation.

Furthermore, you have to use these production methods for at least two years before you can market the fruits and vegetables as organic.

You (or your importer) must apply for an import authorisation from EU organic control bodies. After being audited by an accredited certifier, you may put the EU organic logo on your products, as well as the logo of the standard holder; for example:

Each standard is slightly different, but they all comply with EU legislation on organic production and labelling.

Tips:

  • Assess the organic market potential for your specific product. Inform yourself well, because implementing organic production and becoming certified can be expensive and time-consuming.
  • Find importers that specialise in organics through trade fairs such as Biofach or Fruit Logistica and company directories such as the International directory of organic food wholesale & supply companies (Organic-bio). Organic importers often play an active role in advisory and guidance of producers.
  • Read more about organic farming on an informative website of the European Commission on organic farming.

New legislation for organic

The European Commission made a proposal for new organic legislation in 2014 and a new set of rules are scheduled to be implemented in July 2020. According to the European Council, this new agreement aims to guarantee fair competition, prevent fraud and improve consumer confidence. Importers have already started to implement the stricter regulations.

In general, organic regulation and testing are expected to become rigorous. Traces of unauthorised substances can result in a direct withdrawal of Organic certification.

Tip:

Key Requirements

Exemptions

Variances

Environmental Impact Statement

Assistance to Industry

Inspections

Related Guidance

Meetings and Webinars

Supporting Materials

Testing Methodologies

Additional Information