Good Agricultural Practices
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The fresh produce industry faces many food safety challenges as the number of outbreaks associated with consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables has increased in recent years. Prevention of microbiological and chemical contamination is a key factor in the delivery of safe fruits and vegetables to consumers, since there is no kill step or remedial treatments that effectively remove contamination once it has occurred. Domestic and international industries share common concerns during production, postharvest handling, and distribution of fresh produce. An integrated approach is required for training workers, who must understand their role in reducing food-borne illness.
The JIFSAN GAP Program is based on the Train-the-Trainer concept. It focuses on providing exporting countries with an adaptable framework of practices. Trainees then teach growers and handlers the concepts and best practices currently available to reduce microbial food safety risks. The use of these practices, when widely disseminated and implemented, improves the safety of fresh produce being exported to the US as well as that consumed in the host country.
What is meant by GAP?
GAP includes the basic environmental, human health, and sanitary operational practices that are necessary for the production of safe, wholesome fruits and vegetables. While controlling every source of microbial contamination during production and handing is impossible, there are many strategies that can be implemented to reduce the risk. The Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, published by FDA in 1998, is the foundation of GAP. It covers agricultural and postharvest water uses, manure and bio-solids, worker health and hygiene, field and facility sanitation, transportation, and traceback.
The GAP Train-the-Trainer Program
The GAP Train-the-Trainer Program is a five-day in-country training course for extension specialists or their equivalent and other individuals from the country with management, education, and outreach responsibilities on fresh produce food safety. The course is presented by a teaching team of US government representatives, academic, and industry faculty.
A typical program includes lectures, presentations, problem analysis, farm and production facility visits and evaluation. A key component of the program is the on farm and packing facility visits, which allow the participants to evaluate their local practices and make recommendations for improvement under the guidance of the teaching team.
The GAP recommendations are globally applicable and independent of location or agricultural and industrial circumstances. Future trainers can use the manual and training materials free of charge. PowerPoint presentations are provided to course participants on a CD which they may modify to suit their specific needs.
The course also includes a module on Effective Training to assist in developing the best program to fit available teaching resources, audience needs and cultural and political circumstances.
There have been 35 GAP Train the Trainer Programs
in 15 countries since 2000.
Typical Program Content
Each time the program is offered, updates to presentations are made and new case studies of special relevance to the host country are developed. The following course agenda lists the major topics that are included in all GAP programs.
- The Importance of Training to Improve the Safety and Quality of Fresh Fruits
- Good Manufacturing Practices for Harvesting and Handling Fresh Produce
- Good Agricultural Practices
- Worker Health and Hygiene
- Pesticides and Food Safety
- Food Safety and Quality Assurance Issues
- Developing an Effective Training Course
- Food Laws and Regulations
- Practical exercises