Compost manufacturers gain access to national fruit and vegetable production markets

By Virginia Brunton – Principal Consultant (Organics), MRA Consulting Group

Freshcare is the fresh produce industry’s own on-farm assurance program adopted by thousands of fresh produce businesses as their key food safety program.

In addition to the Food Safety and Quality (FSQ) assurance code of practice (COP) to ensure safe fruit and vegetables, Freshcare also offers Environmental, Environmental Viticulture and Environmental Winery Codes providing an independent assurance of on-farm environmental practices and sustainable production. Over 60% of the Australian vegetable industry are Freshcare members and over 90% of produce at retail stores is grown under Freshcare or an equivalent food safety certification.

However, the initial COP largely restricted the use of compost by Freshcare members thus preventing farmers from harnessing the benefits that composts have for soils and the environment. Under the Freshcare Food Safety Compliant Compost project, MRA Consulting Group (MRA) together with a working group of food safety professionals and Freshcare, revised the COP and established criteria that allowed compost, produced under the Australian standard for composts (AS4454) to be used by farmers with Freshcare certification.

The recently revised Freshcare COP (FSQ4) now allows the unrestricted use of correctly composted recycled organics in fruit and vegetable production opening a new market for Australian compost producers. AS4454 certified composts are already approved under FSQ4 but non-AS4454 certified composts will need to be independently verified including pasteurisation records, heavy metal levels and microbial levels.

MRA now provides independent verification of compliance with the Freshcare COP for compost producers that includes an assessment and verification of:

  • Processes and procedures to ensure pasteurisation
  • Time-temperature records
  • Heavy metal analyses
  • Microbial analyses

MRA provides a report and certificate that verifies compliance. This can be provided by compost producers to Freshcare member customers for their records.

To request further information or to arrange verification under the Freshcare FSQ4, please contact MRA.

The Freshcare Food Safety Compliant Compost project was funded under the NSW EPA Waste Less Recycle More, Organics Market Development Grants to identify and remove barriers to the use of compost in the fresh produce (fruit and vegetable) sector.

If you would like to know more about the work we are doing and how you can get involved, please get in touch at info@mraconsulting.com.au.

As always, we welcome your feedback on this, or any other topic on ‘The Tipping Point’.