Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) are voluntary audits that verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards. GAP & GHP audits verify adherence to the recommendations made in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (pdf) and industry recognized food safety practices.
The Urban Farm Collaborative at Garinger High School is pursuing this certification so that we can grow, harvest and serve dark and leafy greens in our school cafeteria during the lunch hour. This barrier from the farm to cafeteria is slowly being broken down in school districts across the country and we intend to add Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools to the list. Our hope is to be a model so that other CMS schools can learn how to implement their own Farm To Cafeteria Program. At first we all thought this was too much red tape for any school, let alone a Title 1 School, to handle but when we looked at the requirements we realized good agricultural practices are, quite simply, good agricultural practices. Our mission is to educate so we SHOULD be teaching and doing these things! That made it a lot easier to get behind the work and make it happen. Our audit is scheduled for June 1, 2016.
USDA formally implemented the USDA GAP & GHP audit verification program in January 2002. This voluntary program is offered to the fruit and vegetable industry to verify an operation’s efforts to minimize the risk of contamination of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts by microbial pathogens. The program does not guarantee the product is free from microbial contamination, but verifies the participant has taken proactive measures to reduce the risk of contamination by adhering to generally recognized industry best practices. The responsibility for product safety and the continued observance of best practices rests with the operation producing and handling the fresh product.