Read the entire Good Agricultural Practices for Small Diversified Farms: Tips and Strategies to Reduce Risk and Pass an Audit

 

Understanding the nuts and bolts of the GAP audit process is the foundation for mastering an inspection. The critical idea is to prioritize the safety concerns relevant to your farm based on risks and your resources available to address those risks. With a few important exceptions, a GAP inspection is not a ‘one strike and your out’ process. Good preparation and knowledge of how audit scoring works allows you to maximize your chances of passing and minimize your time and expense in implementing foodsafety practices and record keeping protocols.

 

Planning Steps Before Scheduling an Audit

Once you have decided to pursue GAP certification and identified what parts of your operation you want audited, there are three key issues to consider in planning for the actual inspection.

 

CROP HARVEST WINDOWS

Timing your audit makes all the difference for maximizing the value of your investment in certification.

If you are seeking to certify only one crop with a short production season, you may want to schedule your audit for the very start of your production season so that you can sell GAP-certified product throughout the season.

Example: Strawberries.

If you are certifying one crop with a long production season (ie, greater than 30 days), you have greater flexibility. Try to time your audit so that you can get the most out of the 12 months the certificate will last you. Be aware that your auditor will determine on your first visit if a second, unannounced verification inspection will be required depending on the results and observations in the initial audit. This is not standardized and will be determined on a case-by-case basis. In the event a follow-up audit is required, your certificate won’t be issued until after the second inspection, and then will be good for 12 months from that second inspection.

Example: Leafy Greens.

If you are certifying multiple crops, schedule your audit so that the auditor is visiting your farm when you have the largest variety of crops being harvested.

Example: If you grow multiple crops such as root vegetables and leafy greens in both the Spring and Fall, as well as Summer crops such as cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers, and short-harvest-window crops such as strawberries, potatoes or sweet potatoes, schedule your initial audit at the transition between two production seasons. A follow-up inspection will result in additional inspection expenses. So if you aren’t required to have a follow-up visit, time the one audit to catch production of short-harvest-window crops that you want certified so you can avoid the expense of a separate visit to cover those crops.

NOTE If there is a specific crop that a buyer has asked to be include on the certification that was not seen on the audit, ensure that you request a follow-up visit and provide a window of time when the auditor may see that crop. Care in scheduling will ensure that the auditor can observe, and certify, the maximum number of crops you produce on your farm.

 

FOOD SAFETY MANUAL

You must have a food safety manual complete prior to requesting an audit. Your food safety manual is a written document that covers all aspects of your growing and handling process, and identifies the potential sources of risks and how you address them. Your manual describes what steps and procedures you will take to reduce the risks of contamination by chemical, physical and microbial hazards. You are required to submit a copy of your manual along with your request to schedule an audit.

Having a complete and easy to read manual can make passing a GAP audit much easier, as you can earn many points simply by including the right paperwork. Many audit points are based on written practices, so auditors can evaluate planned riskreduction activities. Written policies, procedures, and records will be the main parts of your food safety manual. See ‘Audit Scoring’ in the GAPs manual for more information on how to make the most of this opportunity.

 

FOOD SAFETY OFFICER

You must name someone—you, your co-operator(s), or other farm management staff—as your food safety officer. That officer must be present at the time of the inspection, and must know your food safety practices in complete detail. Not having a food safety officer will result in automatic failure on your audit.

 

Audit Tip

Do you need a follow up inspection?

Although this is a judgment call made by the auditor, help them see why only one audit is necessary and be an advocate for your farm. Show as many crop production examples as you can during the audit process and help the auditor understand your processes. For example, hand harvesting tomatoes should satisfy the auditor’s need to see the harvest of vegetables that aren’t grown in contact with soil that you also hand harvest.

Read the entire Good Agricultural Practices for Small Diversified Farms: Tips and Strategies to Reduce Risk and Pass an Audit