Composts can be approved for use in vegetable production

By Virginia Brunton, MRA Consulting Group

MRA Consulting Group (MRA) together with a working group of food safety professionals and Freshcare, revised the Food Safety and Quality (FSQ) assurance code of practice (COP) and established criteria that allowed compost, produced under the Australian standard for composts (AS4454) to be used by farmers with Freshcare certification.

Hands in the Garden

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

Freshcare operates the COP to ensure safe fruit and vegetables. 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.

Two factsheets are available to support the use of composts in vegetable production. One is for vegetable growers (available to download here), providing information on the quality of the composts that are approved for use. The other is for compost producers (available to download here) and provides information for meeting the Freshcare requirements for food-safe compost.

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 approved under FSQ4 but non-certified AS4454 composts will need to be independently verified including for appropriate pasteurisation, 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; and
  • Microbial analyses;

Following a successful assessment of the compost product, MRA issues a report and certificate that verifies compliance. The certificate constitutes proof of compliance to the Freshcare COP FSQ4 and 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 Virginia Brunton at virginia@mraconsulting.com.au.

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.

For further information on MRA’s work, please contact us at info@mraconsulting.com.au. As always, we welcome your feedback on this, or any other topic on ‘The Tipping Point’.