In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.” The practices outlined in this and other industry documents are collectively known as Good Agricultural Practices or GAPs.

GAPs provide general food safety guidance on critical production steps where food safety might be compromised during the growing, harvesting, transportation, cooling, packing and storage of fresh produce. More specifically, GAP guidance alerts fruit and vegetable growers, shippers, packers and processors to the potential microbiological hazards associated with various aspects of the production chain including: land history, adjacent land use, water quality, worker hygiene, pesticide and fertilizer use, equipment sanitation and product transportation. The vast majority of the lettuce/leafy greens industry has adopted GAPs as part of normal production operations. Indeed the majority of lettuce/leafy greens producers undergo either internal or external third-party GAP audits on a regular basis to monitor and verify adherence to their GAPs programs. These audit results are often shared with customers as verification of the producer’s commitment to food safety and GAPs.

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