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Good Agricultural Practices and Food Safety

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Kai Ottesen of Hedlin Family Farm and Tricia Kovacs of WSDA Farm-to-School talk at the Interbay Wholesale Market

Food Safety
Food safety practices should be considered every step of the way from how food is grown in the fields to how food is served on the plate. There are specific practices that apply to growers and food producers, and to school cafeterias and food service workers.

When purchasing local food, schools and institutions have varied requirements of their vendors.  Some schools, insitutuons, wholesalers and food service comapnies require farms to have a certification, such as Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) or other third party certifications, though not all. Some districts ask farmers to fill out a food safety checklist, require a food safety plan and/or choose to visit the farms to review their practices.  

The USDA has Frequently Asked Questions about Food Safety that addresses food safety tips for buying directly from farms.  At the bottom of this page, there are sample checklists from other states of questions school buyers might ask of farmers when buying directly to ensure that food safety measures are being taken while growing and handling produce.

Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)
Good Agricultural Practices are a voluntary set of food-safety guidelines designed to help farmers handle food safety from the farm to the market. These practices include:

  • Developing a food safety plan for the farm
  • Training farm employees about this plan and farm food safety practices
  • Documenting farm practices to reduce the risk of dangerous bacteria or toxins on farm products

WSDA is currently working on a project - Bridging the GAPs - to identify and share best practices relating to on-farm food safety for growers operating small, mid-sized and diversified fruit and vegetable farms in Washington State. The project team will conduct education internally with auditors about small and diversified farming operations, and externally with the farming community about examples of safe growing practices that meet the GAP certification standards. WSDA seeks to engage growers throughout the project by soliciting questions, concerns and examples of successful solutions to guide the work. Check out this Bridging the GAPs video to learn more about the project and Good Agricultural Practices.

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Last Updated: 7/11/2013