On Farm Food Safety: Guide to Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)
Food safety concerns are increasing as once unheard of illness-causing microorganisms become more prevalent and as products previously considered safe cause an increasing number of illnesses each year. Produce, recently thought of as a safe product, has been identified as a cause of major foodborne illness outbreaks in recent years.
Illnesses are primarily caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. These microorganisms, often referred to as pathogens or biological hazards, also are associated with ground beef, poultry, eggs, and seafood. Cooking is a common method of easily killing most pathogens in those foods. However, fresh produce is often consumed raw.
In addition, produce is exposed to naturally occurring, biological hazards in the soil, water, and air. The potential risk for contamination is increased by production practices using manure for fertilizer and human handling of products.
Developing a safety plan helps food producers manage the safety component of their operation by organizing the action steps identified as key to reducing those risks. Documenting of current practices and any changes over time allows for monitoring the safety of the food product.
This publication provides some background about GAPs and how they relate to the development of a food safety plan. Resources for other produce production GAPs and food safety information also are provided.