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2015 – Freshcare Forum

Amidst a week of the wildest weather Sydney has seen in decades, 95 industry stakeholders, including primary producers, industry representatives, trainers, auditors, retailers, wholesalers, research institutions and government organisations, attended the Freshcare Forum at Coogee Beach on the 22nd and 23rd April 2015.

With the focus of the Forum on food safety, quality and environmental assurance for the fresh produce sector, day one opened with an update on “All Things Freshcare” – covering program developments and a look at the revised Food Safety & Quality 4th Edition Code to be released in late 2015.

The Freshcare focus of the early part of the day then extended into broader compliance related topics, and highlights included Margie Milgate from Rural Skills Australia who spoke about the new Industry Skills Fund; Belinda Hazell from TQA Australia and Terry Rudge from Rudge Produce Systems who spoke about tools for business management and compliance; and Danica Leys, Policy Direct at NSW Farmers’ Association and cofounder of #AgChatOz, who gave an insight into social media and its use as a tool for supporting industry.

The afternoon of day one had an environmental focus, starting with an update on the Freshcare Environmental Program and the code review process. Andy Chambers, from Seed Consulting Services then spoke about businesses ‘thriving and surviving sustainability’.

Day one closed with key note speaker Anna Rose, Earth Hour Manager from WWF, who left the audience with a very real indication of our need for commitment on climate change – “We are the first generation to understand the impacts of climate change, and the last generation that can do anything about it”.

On day two of the Forum, the focus was on the importance of assurance systems such as Freshcare to underpin potential crisis situations.

The day opened with Steven Newton from Newton Risk-Stream Management, who explained the food industries’ plan on how to keep Australia fed in a national pandemic/disaster situation. Richard Bennett, the Technology Manager from PMA-ANZ then challenged delegates on our preparedness to deal with a crisis in the fresh produce sector, whilst Joe Ekman from the Fresh Produce Group engaged the audience with examples of real life crisis ‘Frontline Stories – the weird, the wonderful and the unexpected’.

A panel discussion on chemical residue testing attempted to identity a smarter way for industry to demonstrate compliance in chemical selection and use. Whilst no alternative regime was immediately identified, the discussion will be continued on as an online forum.

Our focus then turned to the future, and the fit of Freshcare and other assurance systems with an ever changing set of market demands and consumer perceptions. Greg Mills from Food Integrity Solutions spoke about trust in our modern food systems and our social license to produce food; Tristan Kitchener updated delegates on the HIA funded QA Harmonisation Initiative and Bill McBride from Foodlink Management Services focussed on auditors and auditor competency.

Finally, the Forum concluded with Emma Walters from the Fresh Produce Safety Centre (FPSC), who facilitated a ‘think-tank session’ on the Guidelines for Fresh Produce Safety, a key industry resource that is currently under review.

Clare Hamilton-Bate, Freshcare’s Executive Officer commented, “We covered a huge amount of content in two days, and feedback from delegates has been very positive.

“The biennial Freshcare Forum brings together our stakeholders and experts from many fields to provide a setting for information updates and for the exchange of ideas; helping us improve the certification programs and underpinning resources we provide to industry.

“Now the hard work begins, converting all the plans and ideas into practical tools, to benefit our most important stakeholder group – the growers, packers and wider industry for whom Freshcare is the key to compliance in both food safety and environmental assurance”.

For more information on any of the topics covered at the Freshcare Forum, email us at [email protected].

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