The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is updating the USDA Harmonized Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Plus+ audit standard and checklist. This update will allow AMS’s GAP audit services to remain applicable and relevant to its specialty crops industry customers. The updates will become effective Sept. 1, 2022.
AMS is adding six requirements to the USDA Harmonized GAP Plus+ audit standard and checklist. These additions are required to maintain alignment with updates to USDA’s technical equivalence acknowledgment from the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). This allows GAP Plus+ audits to meet both U.S. and international food safety requirements. The new requirements are detailed in the Summary of Changes – USDA Harmonized GAP Plus+ Standard document. Additionally, AMS has updated the Harmonized GAP Program Manual (previously titled the Harmonized Auditor Manual) to reflect the changes to the standard.
Specialty crop buyers often require third-party food safety certifications from produce growers to gain market access. AMS offers suppliers throughout the production and supply chain several types of voluntary USDA GAP audits. The audits focus on verifying best agricultural practices are being used to produce, pack, handle, and store fruits and vegetables to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards. Customers requesting a voluntary GAP audit are required to pay fees that cover audit and administration costs, including auditor travel time and expenses.
For more information on the updates to the Harmonized GAP Plus+ standard and checklist, contact Jennifer Dougherty, AMS Audit Services Branch, at Jennifer.Dougherty@usda.gov or by phone at (703) 328-7562.