How are FSMA and GAP related and how are they relevant to your farm? This fact sheet provides an overview of regulatory requirements for ensuring produce safety practices on the farm (FSMA) and voluntary options for demonstrating best practices to buyers (GAP). Even if your operation is not required by law to implement produce safety practices, it is in the interest of your customers and the longevity of your farm to ensure your fruit and vegetables are safe.
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA and Produce Safety Rule) was signed into law in 2011 to reduce incidences of food borne illness in the United States. Lessons learned from previous produce safety outbreaks inspired this effort to prevent future occurrences. The requirements are limited to farms growing produce typically consumed raw and depend on the size of the operation, among other conditions. Enforcement of this law is being phased in (see timeline here), and will be fully implemented as of 2024. Check here to see if your farm is covered or exempt from FSMA.
DFI partners with the Nevada Department of Agriculture to provide educational resources for farmers to prepare for FSMA inspections. DFI and NDA offer on-farm readiness reviews in which farms can voluntarily request an informal visit to review Produce Safety Rule requirements. The focus of requirements is on worker health and hygiene, soil amendments, animal management, land use, water, post-harvest handling and sanitation practices.
This video from the University of Michigan (7 minutes) gives a great overview of FSMA and how it applies.
Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)
This voluntary certification signifies that a grower has adopted strict food safety and farm record keeping practices. The certification can expand market opportunities because some wholesale buyers require GAP or good handling practices certifications as a condition for purchasing produce. Certification is granted after a successful ‘third party audit’ and must be completed annually.
What is a third party audit? It is a voluntary farm evaluation by an accredited organization (the ‘third party’) to check whether produce safety practices are in place and standards are being met – resulting in a certification. Growers can then show that certificate to distributors or other buyers who are requesting proof that their produce is safe. For example, the Nevada Department of Agriculture is designated by the USDA to be a third party auditor for federal Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) standards in the State. There are also private food safety certificate schemes and auditors working on the national and international scene, such as CCOF, Primus and NSF.
The DFI Food Safety Plan is intended to meet both GAP and FSMA requirements and includes good handling practices, operating procedures and a streamlined record keeping system. Food Safety Plans can be evaluated via ‘mock audits’ – these are available to all farms, highlight the latest GAP requirements and help identify any practices that need improvement without the cost of a full GAP certification process.
Creating a Food Safety Plan for Your Farm
Food safety planning can be overwhelming at the outset, but there are many helpful links and guidance documents available to assist growers (see Resources below). DFI continually refines its Food Safety Plan according to the latest guidance and practical experience balancing produce safety and farm efficiency. It can be used as a reference by area growers. DFI also put together this Food Safety Planning Questionnaire to assist Nevada growers in drafting their own plan. Let us know if you need help – DFI offers free consultations!
Produce Safety Training
The Produce Safety Alliance at Cornell University is the organization leading required FSMA training for covered growers and maintains a list of all FSMA trainings offered in Nevada and around the US. Remote and online options are available. The Nevada Department of Agriculture provides further information on training specific to our state, and DFI offers targeted workshops and webinars on all things produce safety.