lunes, 24 de octubre de 2011

Bridging the GAP: Bringing big Food Safety regulations to Small Farms

Smaller and mid-sized farms need GAPs certification
For large farming operations, food safety audits are commonplace. Most buyers require them before purchasing produce. However, small farms are rarely inspected by auditors, because the cost of implementing a safety plan can be too expensive.
That's where bridging the GAPs - a program need to be designed to help small and mid-sized growers find a way to meet food safety guidelines - comes in.
Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) is a set of protocols approved established worldwide that farmers can follow to prove they're growing and harvesting in a way that minimizes the risk of crop contamination.
The obstacles that stand between small and midsized farms and GAPs certification are multiple but the key elements include:

- Employees must be educated in sanitation practices and have access to clean hand-washing and waste facilities
- Sick workers are not allowed to handle food or processing surfaces

- Irrigation water has been tested and does not flow from an uphill source that could be contaminated with human or animal feces
- Livestock are not in close proximity to crops, and fences around fields keep out wild animals

- Raw manure is applied to crops at least 120 days before harvesting and records are kept of composted manure treatment
- Records (register) are kept of what crops are planted in what field, what date they're planted and harvested and where they were sold, so that produce can be traced back to its origin in the case of a recall

Another problem farmers raised was the requirement that storage containers be new or sanitized before use, and not stacked if they've touched the ground. Buying new crates is expensive, and not stacking clean crates that have been on the ground next to crops drags out the harvesting process.
One of the things these farmers are unfamiliar with is the documentation needed to prove that they're taking measures to meet GAPs. Letting raw manure compost for 120 days doesn't mean anything if you don't record the dates on which it was added, turned, checked for temperature and then applied to plants.

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