Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) certification uses a systems-based approach to minimizing risk of microbial contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables on the farm. The practices are a set of parameters that growers can implement during growing, harvesting, sorting, packaging, and storing to reduce the possibility of microbial contamination to fresh fruits and vegetables.
The USDA has developed the GAP/GHP audit program to certify U.S. fruit and vegetable producers that use these practices in their production. The requirements of these certifications are outlined in the Audit Verification Checklist published by USDA.
Good Agriculture Practices
GAP certification is verification of practices on the farm that minimize microbial contamination in the production of fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.
The audit consists of verifying compliance with three sections of the USDA Audit Checklist; General Questions, Farm Review, and Field Harvest-Field Packing.
The General Questions are constructed to verify the implementation of a basic food safety program. The Farm Review questions verify that hazards associated with land use and water are mitigated, and the Field Harvest and Field Packing questions verify the implementation of precautions and practices that mitigate microbial contamination during harvest and field packing.
GAP certification audits are conducted during harvest when harvest crews are operating.
Good Handling Practices
GHP certification is verification of practices in the handling and packing operation that minimize microbial contamination in the handling of fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.
The audit consists of verifying compliance with four sections of the USDA Audit Checklist; General Questions, House Packing Facility, Storage and Transportation and Traceback.
The General Questions are constructed to verify the implementation of a basic food safety program on the farm. The House Packing Facility questions verify that hazards associated receiving and packing product are mitigated, the Storage and Transportation questions verify the implementation of precautions and practices that mitigate microbial contamination during storage and transportation, and the Traceback section checks the lot identification system and that product is traceable one step forward and one step back in the food supply chain.
GHP audits are performed when the packing operation is running and workers are present.
Every operation must compile a farm safety program which outlines the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and policies that are in practice for the requirements of each section. In certain circumstances, documentation must also be provided to substantiate evidence of compliance with the requirements in the checklist. Additionally, traceback and mock recall requirements have been included in the General questions, and all other sections where applicable and a traceability program must be in place and documented before on-site inspection occurs.
GAP Certification: GAP certification is the verification of practices on the farm that minimize microbial contamination in the production of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Audits are based on FDA’s “Guidelines to Minimize Microbial Contamination for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.”