Good Agricultural Practices USDA Audit Process
The GAPs training program provided by the Ohio State University assists growers with achieving the necessary requirements of USDA GAPs or Group GAPs audit process. USDA GAPs and Good Handling Practices (GHP) are "voluntary audits that verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards" (USDA-GAPs, 2002). The OSU GAPs training program is not a certification or audit program, but rather, provides growers with the knowledge and resources required to meet USDA audit requirements.
USDA GAPs Audit Program
The Ohio State University does not conduct GAPs audits/inspections. Audits are conducted by USDA agents from the Local Specialty Crops Inspection Division. To request an audit, complete the Request for Audit Service Form (Form FV237A) and submit it to the Ohio (or nearest office) Local Specialty Crops Inspection Division audit offices. In Ohio, request forms are sent to the Ohio Audit Services Branch.
Ohio Audit Services Branch
Once the Request for Audit form is submitted, someone from the office will contact you and confirm the receipt of your request, give you more information about the program procedures, and schedule your audit. Wholesalers , distributors and other food Industry applicants may also be asked to submit an Agreement for Participation in Audit Verification Programs Form (Form FV-651).
Operators can have their entire farm audited or specific fields (crops) audited. The cost of an on-farm audit depends on the size of the farm and the proximity of the farm to the inspector. The cost included the auditor's time to prepare for the audit, conduct the inspection, prepare the report and travel time (to and from the farm).
USDA Harmonized GAPs Audit Program
In 2018, the USDA and FDA aligned USDA’s voluntary Harmonized Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Audit Program with the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule. The alignment is a tool that farmers can use to demonstrate to buyers that they are implementing the requirements set forth in the Produce Safety Rule. The alignment means that all relevant technical components in the Rule are covered in the USDA Harmonized GAP Program, and that the metrics used in the USDA program meet the Rule’s ultimate goals of increasing food safety.
To learn more about the Harmonized GAPs Standard contact your nearest OSU Extension Fruit and Vegetable Safety Team member or the USDA Agriculture Marketing Services website. Additional resources are also listed below.
USDA GroupGAPs Audit Program
The USDA GroupGAPs Food Safety Program was established in 2016 with the goal of making the audit process more accessible to small and middle sized producers. GroupGAPs can accommodate a wide range of production and handling practices and different crop types. Members of a group share a farm food safety plan. If you can answer YES to ALL of the following questions then you may want to consider Group GAPs:
- Are you a member of an organized group or can you create a group?
- Are you willing to share responsibility for implementing food safety practices for all of the group members?
- Are ALL group members willing to implement (and document) GAPs?
- Will your buyer(s) accept a USDA GroupGAPs audit program?
USDA Audit Resources
- USDA GAPs and Good Handling Practices Audit Verification Program (This guide provides specific information about the USDA GAPs verification program.)
- USDA GAPs and GHP Checklist (This list provides a detailed list of what a USDA inspector will be assessing on your farm.)
- USDA Group GAPs and GHP Certification Program (This guide provides specific information about the USDA Group GAPs program.)
- USDA Harmonized GAP Standard (This guide provides detailed information on the HGAP requirements, procedure and verification process.)
- USDA Harmonized GAPs Checklist (This list provides a detailed list of what a USDA inspector will be assessing on your farm.)