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Keeping Up with Food Safety Requirements on the Farm

Consumer demand for locally grown fruit and vegetables is on the rise. So is the expectation that all farms will follow agricultural best practices. Education and outreach efforts are critical. Growers need to know how to operate a farm under good agricultural and management practices.

Producers also recognize that to remain profitable, they need to expand their business to include more value added products and marketing venues. This expansion requires more safety management training.

The Produce Safety Alliance Grower Trainings from Cornell University contain the most current information on the FSMA Produce Safety Rule and Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). We recommend this training for anyone interested in a GAP audit for their farm.

Some produce buyers now ask farmers to assure they followed safe food handling practices on the farm and during delivery. Growers can provide documentation of food safety assurances through:

  • a buyer’s onsite review of their farm
  • a certificate of attendance at a food safety training
  • a self-audit
  • documentation of a third-party audit

Self-audits

The self-audit allows you to assess your business’s Good Agricultural Practices. The objective of a self-audit is to identify, review, confirm or document food safety procedures and practices. Self-audit checklists contain questions that will be asked during the on-site audit. These checklists are excellent pre-audit tools for growers, packers, processors and distributors.

The Checklist for Retail Purchasing of Local Fresh Produce from ISU is one tool that can be used for a self-audit.

Food safety plans

Developing, implementing and auditing a food safety plan are essential steps in obtaining GAP certification. The Iowa Produce Safety team has created a toolkit with templates and logs to help farmers create a Harmonized GAP (HGAP) food safety plan.

The Harmonized GAP standard has been aligned to the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. Farmers can use HGAP audits to demonstrate to buyers that they are implementing Produce Safety Rule requirements. HGAP audits are not a substitute for FDA or state regulatory inspections. But alignment with HGAP helps farmers assess how ready they are to comply with the rule. It also streamlines complex regulatory requirements for the specialty crops sector and facilitates market access for the specialty crops industry.

These two videos explain more:

Third-party auditors

With the increasing focus on Good Agricultural Practices, retail and food service buyers are using third-party audits to verify their suppliers’ practices. Third-party auditor companies and government agencies provide audits for GAPs certification.

Several companies provide third-party audits for Good Agricultural Practices certification in Iowa. Visit their sites and contact them for information on setting up an audit. (This list is not all-inclusive).

The Iowa Produce Safety Team is available to answer questions about GAP audits and assist farms with their plans.

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