Audit Time

Surviving a Good Agricultural Practices audit

Published in the June 2009 Issue Published online: Jun 05, 2009 Lynn Woodell & Nora Olsen, University of Idaho
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Increased consumer concerns about fruit and vegetable safety have led to several segments of the potato industry requiring producers to submit to inspection under provisions of the USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) Audit procedures. The University of Idaho has developed a Potato GAP Organizational Manual to simplify the collection of information necessary to present at the audit, and is now available for download at www.kimberly.uidaho.edu/potatoes/gap.htm.

HOW THE AUDIT WORKS

Trained auditors will visit the location while the farm/facility is in operation. The auditors will address questions from the USDA GAP and GHP Audit Checklist while reviewing the operation. A typical audit will require a farm review audit and one later visit for the Field Harvest and Field Packing section and/or Storage and Transportation section. The General Questions section must be filled out for each Audit and Questions G1 and G2 must be answered "yes" for the audit to continue. This means each farm must have a written Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for their GAP food and farm safety program, and one or more persons designated to oversee this program. Not all questions in each audit will be applicable to every farm; therefore, some questions may be answered "not applicable." A passing score is 80 percent of the points for applicable questions. This certification is good for one season.

HOW THE WEBSITE WORKS

The University of Idaho website provides information describing GAP and the organizational manual. The step-by-step procedures begin by explaining that the manual provided on the U of I website is available in both PDF and Microsoft Word format. The PDF version of the SOP and documentation is available to use as an example and is not intended to be used in its present form. The SOP must be tailored to each specific farming operation. For this reason, a Microsoft Word version is provided that can be saved to a computer and then edited for each individual operation. Once the necessary changes have been saved, it is ready to print and assemble in a binder. The manual also includes sections to insert maps, the current USDA Audit Checklist, and other miscellaneous information. If completed as described, the edited manual will include all information and documentation needed at the time of the audit. It is important to follow the most current version of the USDA GAP Audit Verification Checklist. This can be found at the USDA website under "Fresh Product Grading and Quality Certification," at www.ams.usda.gov/gapghp. The U of I manual and website will be updated as the USDA GAP Audit Verification Checklist changes.U OF I GAP MANUAL

The U of I handbook sections include: introduction and references, audit checklist information, overall farm SOP, SOP appendix, maps, documentation, employee-signed policy forms (in English and Spanish), current USDA audit checklist and miscellaneous. The four USDA Audit sections (scopes) included in the U of I handbook are: General Questions, Farm Review, Field Harvest and Field Packing Activities, and Storage and Transportation. Not every farming operation will require all these scopes, and some operations may require others not listed in this handbook. The farm/company (auditee) will determine which scopes of the checklist to be covered. The handbook is written so that the SOP is coordinated and referenced directly to the USDA GAP Audit Checklist and any required documentation. Each bullet point of the SOP is referenced to the Audit Checklist and also given a documentation number if necessary. Examples of preformatted documentation for all mandatory requirements are included. These documents can be downloaded and adjusted to fit an individual operation.

For example, in the SOP:

Potable water is available to all workers: G3, D#1. G3 indicates that this question is found in the General Information section of the Audit and is question 3. D#1 indicates that the appropriate documentation is found in the Document section of the U of I handbook and is the first document. The D#1 document also has the reference to G3 on it to make it easier to find what question in the audit it pertains to.

 

TIMETABLE

  • Contact the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) at http://www.agri.idaho.gov or by calling 208-332-8672 or your appropriate state department of agriculture. Discuss what scopes are relevant. Schedule the Farm Review portion
  • Review and/or download U of I GAP Manual
  • Develop a written SOP and documentation to include in the manual
  • Perform worker trainings
  • Farm Review Audit occurs
  • Continue documentation during growing season
  • Schedule Field Harvest Audit and/or Storage Audit

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