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Implementing a Good Agricultural Practices Program

Good agricultural practices (GAP) is a voluntary audit used to “verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards.”[1]

GAP programs are emerging as a standard practice for most agricultural producers. Developing a GAP program will help to increase the chances your products will be safe for consumption while outlining the general policies and procedures that should be used to ensure the safety of the products. Additionally, GAP helps to monitor producers “in terms of their environmental impact, labor practices, and possibly ‘carbon footprint’.”[2]

A great resource for producers is the National Good Agricultural Practices Program website hosted by Cornell University. Here users can access educational materials, research, take GAP-related online courses, or schedule in-person GAP training sessions.

GAP focuses on specific areas of the FDA guide that should be given special consideration including:

  • Water quality
  • Employee health and hygiene
  • Sanitation
  • Transportation
  • Bio-solid treatment
  • Field sanitation
  • Parking facilities

These areas receive special attention due to the “public concern over the safety of produce…due to well-publicized outbreaks of [E. coli], Salmonella, and listeria, among others.”[3]

To ensure your products maintain the highest levels of safety and are free from dangerous microbes, a GAP audit checklist is recommended. The checklist should mirror the USDA checklist, which includes, but is not limited to, the below sections:

  • General farm review
  • Harvesting and packing activities
  • Packinghouse facility
  • Storage
  • Transportation
  • Distribution

Establishing a well-thought-out program to minimize the risk of foodborne illness benefits not only your business but the people consuming your products. To learn more about GAP and how we can assist in promoting workplace safety, contact Harbor America today.

[1] USDA: Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) & Good Handling Practices (GHP)
[2] North Dakota State University: Market Forces—Good Agricultural Practices
[3] University of Nevada Cooperative Extension: Good Agricultural Practices