United Fresh Technical Advisory Group

The AgriChain Centre has had a long association with United Fresh, the pan industry association of the New Zealand produce industry. It goes back to 1992 when Hans Maurer was a founding member of the organisation. Since 2008 Hans has been the Knowledge Representative on the organisation’s Executive Committee. Hans also chairs the United Fresh Technical Advisory Group which evolved from United Fresh’s inititial efforts in the Food Safety & Traceability area.

The AgriChain Centre resources the United Fresh Technical Advisory Group, with the group currently engaged in the following areas:

BIOSECURITY
The domestic and export fresh produce industries are intrinsically linked. The emergence of any new pest threatening horticultural exports impacts on the domestic produce industries ability to effectively and efficiently distribute produce as inevitably MPI will introduce regulatory movement restrictions. An inability to control or eradicate any pest creates further strategic implications.

FOOD SAFETY & RESIDUES
Consumers want safe food. Regulators and retailers hold producers and distributors accountable for providing safe food, and all parties involved understand the need for this. United Fresh members’ interest lies in maintaining and increasing consumption of fresh produce. This interest is compromised every time a fruit or vegetable product is pointed at, or identified, in a food safety incident. Food safety and traceability therefore go hand in hand. We have separated these for the purposes of our reporting, as food safety is paramount on any day, regardless of what traceability methodologies are being used. Yet whilst this operational separation is in place, new technologies related to traceability are challenging how food safety requirements will in future be managed.

TRACEABILITY METHODOLOGIES
Produce supply chains are becoming more complex, as well as diverse, and new channels continue to emerge. Regulatory and retailer driven residue hurdles continue to be raised, and the consumer is increasingly requesting more accurate and timely information about product origin and the treatments it has been exposed to. All this makes traceability an essential component of good business practice for the produce industry, rather than an optional extra.

CRATES & PALLETS
Produce is moved from grower to retail in crates and on pallets. Any change in the configuration, through either legislation or distributor requirements, has substantial applications for all other elements of the supply chain. Collectively working on achieving effective and efficient movement of produce aids the state the produce is in when consumers are exposed to it, and hopefully increases consumption.

WEIGHTS & MEASURES
Like other consumer goods, fresh produce is subject to government regulations in this area. Some exemptions exist for prepacked fresh produce that differ from the rules for shelf stable FMCG items. Our industry has increased the amount of produce that is being sold in prepacked format, which means different (and tighter) rules apply. Some of the produce, such as RTE salads, differ in packaging technology very little from frozen peas. At the same time, the traditional practice of offering pre-packaged produce in tray/overwrap format has in many cases been shifted out of the retail rear-store into an off-location central facility.

REFRIGERATION GASES
Produce is perishable, and perishability can be slowed down through refrigeration. Effective refrigeration involves the use of coolant gases. The use of refrigeration is widespread in the fresh produce and wider food industries, at all levels of the supply chain. Global environmental agreements to which New Zealand is a signatory require New Zealand, and New Zealand industries, to change the ways refrigeration is applied and managed.

INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION FOR PRODUCE STANDARDS (IFPS)
The International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) emerged in the 1990s, when national produce associations in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand realised that there was an urgent need to standardise the use of PLU numbers on a global basis. Today, membership is more extensive, and includes countries as diverse as Chile, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Norway. The scope of IFPS engagement has also broadened, and now includes the portfolios of Chain Information Management, Product Identification, and Food Safety. New Zealand is a IFPS founding member and continues to contribute at the organisations executive level, with Hans Maurer currently serving as the chair of the Chain Information Management committee.

Please check out the United Fresh website for more detailed information on the work of the Technical Advisory Group.