Food Safety in Connecticut for Farmers & Growers
Produce Safety and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)
Fruits and vegetables continue to be associated with foodborne illness outbreaks: lettuce, spinach, cantaloupe, tomatoes, cilantro, and green onions, have been implicated.
Using good agricultural practices is one way that farmers and growers can reduce the risk of microbial contamination of the fruits and vegetables they produce. GAP programs address the safety of water, manure use, sanitation, and personal hygiene practices on the farm, in the field, during harvest, packing, and transportation.
(This site focuses on farmers who grow fruits and/or vegetables to sell. If you are a home gardener or hobby farmer, go here to learn how to grow safe food in your garden.)
Food Safety Modernization Act: Produce Safety Rule
The Produce Safety Rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was implemented in January 2016. The rule establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fresh fruits and vegetables.
This is the first comprehensive federal regulation to be applied to the produce growing industry. Farmers selling over $500,000 worth of fruits and vegetables must comply with all parts of the Rule, while those selling between $25,000 and $500,000 will need to comply with certain parts of the Rule, though exemptions exist for this many in this category of farms. Farms selling $25,000 or less are not covered by the Rule.
Market access programs
Often, to gain access to certain buyers of fresh fruits and vegetables, including grocery stores, distributors, schools, restaurants and other markets, a farm will need to participate in some type of program to ensure that they are following good agricultural practices to reduce risks for foodborne illness.
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DoAg) is developing a market access program for Connecticut farmers. CGAP (Connecticut GAP) will based on the requirements for farms that must comply with the full Produce Safety Rule. However, the program will be available to all farms, whether covered, exempted or fully compliant, in order to provide market access to farms of all sizes.
Participating farms will need to comply with all Rule requirements and meet the standards of the CGAP program, regardless of size or sales numbers. In addition, they will need to implement a traceback system to help investigators trace foods that may be associated with a food safety issue in the future.
Once the CGAP program is finalized, we will provide links and resources to help farms participate in this voluntary program.
GAP third party audit programs
Some retailers, distributors and restaurants will require that farms submit to a third party food safety audit if the farm wants to sell their fruits and vegetables to them. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and a number of private entities provide GAP audits for a fee. Your customer will tell you what kind of GAP audit they want, what they want covered, and, sometimes, which audit provider they want you to use.
GAP audits are not regulatory; they are voluntary (though if your customer insists you participate, you may not think of an audit as voluntary).
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