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USDA offers database of GAP compliant firms

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering a searchable database of companies conforming to Good Agricultural Practice audits performed by the agency’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

Found at http://bit.ly/USDA-GAP, the database included about 3,250 operations as of early September.

The database shows the audit type, audit scopes and commodities for which the companies showed an acceptable level of compliance with the respective audit standard.

For apples alone, the USDA said it has GAP audited nearly 600 marketing companies.

The USDA said the audit results are valid for one year from the date shown, and are validated through the use of unannounced audits throughout the growing/packing season.

Ken Petersen, head of the audit program section of the USDA AMS Specialty Crops Inspection Division, said in a blog post that the list of buyers who accept the USDA GAP audits is “long and growing,” including Ahold USA, Chiquita, C.H. Robinson, Del Monte, Fresh Express, HEB, Kroger, McDonald’s, Publix, Subway, Sysco, US Foods and Wegmans.

Petersen said in the blog post that the Produce GAP Harmonized Standard is the result of an effort by growers, shippers, produce buyers, industry associations, government agencies — including the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service — audit organizations and others to develop a single audit.

The goal, he said, is an audit that is applicable to all fresh produce commodities, all sizes of on-farm operations and all regions in the U.S. — and is acceptable to all buyers.

“The value of the harmonized audit will only continue to increase as USDA aligns the audit standard with the requirements of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and pursues Global Food Safety Initiative recognition of the USDA standard,” Petersen said in the blog post.

USDA offers a variety of voluntary GAP audit services, ranging from GroupGAP, which helps producers of all sizes to attain GAP certification, to audits for specific commodities, including mushrooms, leafy greens and cantaloupes.

USDA also offers the unique Produce GAP Harmonized Food Safety Standard for field and post-harvest operations, Petersen said.

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