What are GAPs?
Good Agricultural Practices, or GAPs, are voluntary guidelines for produce farmers to reduce the risk of microbial contamination related to food borne illnesses on their farms. The guidelines are based on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Guide to Minimizing Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Produce(.pdf), a document published in 1988.
Why GAPS now?
As consumption of fresh produce has increased, the number of foodborne illness outbreaks associated with fresh produce also has steadily increased. Bacteria such as Salmonella and e. coli 0157:H7 are most often linked to these illnesses, as are parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Cyclospora. As a result, some larger buyers, especially supermarkets and produce distributors, have begun began requiring their vendors to be audited by a third party to certify that they follow Good Agricultural Practices to minimize the risk of microbial contamination on their produce.
What if I have more questions?
To get started, we suggest you attend a GAPs workshop or demonstration audit. At these workshops, you will start creating your own food safety plan using the templates pre-loaded onto jump drives. Next, begin creating your food safety plan using the templates and guidelines available (also available here).
Why are GAPs important for my farm?
Good Agricultural Practices can reduce the risk of harmful contamination of your produce
Following best practices for reducing microbial contamination ensures that the food that you sell to the public will not cause harm or illness for consumers. Reducing the risk of contamination before it occurs is the best way to minimize the risk of illness in the public.
Lettuces, salad mix, green onions, tomatoes, sprouts, cantaloupes, carrots, raspberries, and herbs are most often associated with foodborne illness outbreaks because of how they are grown and consumed. All growers, regardless of their products, can benefit from implementing a set of SOP to reduce microbial contamination.
GAPs are not intended to sanitize fresh produce or completely eliminate the risk of contamination: this is impossible. GAPs are intended to guide growers to reduce the risk of contamination where possible.
Your customer may require an audit
Many produce distributors and supermarkets require, or will soon require all their vendors have a GAP audit. If you wish to sell to this buyer, you must have follow their requirements for certification.
Quality and shelf-life of your product is maintained and spoilage reduced
GAPs focus on post-harvest handling and proper cooling, handling and storing of product. This can reduce spoilage, improve quality and ensure that you have the best quality produce for your customers.
Greater organization and efficiency of your operation
After the initial work of developing a food safety plan, many growers report improved efficiency and streamlined inventory control and management of their products.
Where can I learn more about GAPs?
There are many GAPs resources available online. Please see our resources page for more information.
For more information or questions send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.