Food safety practices must be observed starting in the field where produce is grown - right to the kitchen where it is prepared for cooking.
Since 1987, the incidences of food contamination have doubled in the U.S. Contamination may or may not cause illness or even worse. To reduce the risk of outbreaks of illnesses some markets are requiring farmers to demonstrate their management of the farm and its harvests to show how they have taken precautions to reduce the risk of an outbreak of a food-borne illness. The farms that complete this process is said to be GAP certified or Good Agriculture Practice Certified.
Farms demonstrate that they have taken all possible steps to assure they practice food safety by successfully completing a GAP audit. This process requires the farmer or farm manager to complete a checklist of actions and modifications on the farm that demonstrate how the produce is grown and handled on the farm. Food safety specialists who understand how food can be contaminated created these checklists.
Modifications include additions to the farm such as eating areas and wash rooms for farm workers, screens on the windows of the packing sheds, and improved education of the farm workers on food safety. If you would like to know if the store where you purchase your fresh produce you can ask the produce manager of the store. Currently, there is no list that indicates which market or buyer sells food that is GAP certified.
Farmers demonstrate their safe management practices on the farm and in the packing shed by obtaining food safety certification. The wholesale or large volume buyers of the farmers’ produce request this certification. It is up to the farmers to complete the certification and third party audit if they want to continue to sell to that buyer.
If you’re looking for resources for safe food handling and preparation, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service offers several worksheets of safe food handling, including working with large groups to prepare food, BBQs and safe handling and preparation of meats.