Thursday, January 5, 2012

Good Agriculture Practices (GAP)

With all we are hearing in the news about contaminated foods, especially the one on canteloup from a farm in Colorado, farmers should begin reading up on Good Agriculture Practices.

The USDA’s Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs) program for fresh fruits and vegetable producers is a voluntary, third-party verification program. Buyers know that GAPs-certified farms are meeting guidelines set forth by the FDA to reduce the potential of microbial contamination of the food supply. Interest in GAPs certification continues to increase, especially because laws from the Food Safety Modernization Act may require certain producers to seek third-party audits. Additionally, many wholesale buyers are requiring producers to provide evidence that they have passed such an audit on their farms.  Farmers market vendors, Community-Supported Agriculture, U-Pick and other direct-to-consumer producers are also seeking GAPs certification as a way to communicate their commitment to safe food to their customers.

However, GAPs can be implemented on any fresh fruit/vegetable farm, regardless of the farmer’s intent to be audited. Protecting the food supply from microbial contamination is a responsibility that we all bear. While we can’t eliminate the potential of this sort of contamination, there are some great principles in the Good Agriculture Practices protocol that all producers can easily implement in their operations.

A good resource to learn more about GAPs is from Cornell University.

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