With the advent of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), we now have a uniform minimum standard of food safety that the overwhelming majority of fresh produce growers must adhere to. The key with FSMA is that it is a minimum requirement. The burden to demonstrate compliance will fall to the producers, and a documented farm food-safety program will be the best way.
In Iowa, we have focused our training on USDA GAP/GHP standard. Currently, USDA teams are working to make the GAP/GHP standard FSMA compliant, and those changes are expected later this year. This is good news for those farms who have implemented GAP plans on their farms. I think we can agree that modifying a current plan is easier than creating one from scratch!
Additionally, FMSA will not eliminate buyer imposed programs for food safety that are already in place. Even if a farm is FSMA compliant, they may still need to be certified under one or more GAPs to sell to certain buyers.
There are several different “brands” of GAP certification, each with their own special requirements and certification agency. The type of GAP certification required is wholly the choice of the produce buying company. In some cases, a grower may need two or more certifications to sell to several different buyers.
The good news is that often food safety is the same, irrespective of the audit that a grower needs to perform. The food safety manual for a particular audit will be virtually the same for another audit under two different GAP brands. This saves time upfront when a grower needs more than one audit.
If you have specific questions about GAPs or have difficulty tailoring GAPs to your farm, contact the Iowa GAPs team for assistance.