Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)

Posted: November 30, 2010

Nationwide interest in farm food safety continues to rise and Pennsylvania fruit and vegetable growers are increasingly affected. Most major grocery store chains and many restaurant chains now require their produce suppliers to learn about farm food safety and some are demanding documentation of safe practices through written plans and third party inspections.
Luke F. LaBorde, Associate Professor of Food Science

Farm food safety standards, known as Good Agricultural Practices or―GAPs, include procedures for the safe use of crop-contact water, use of raw and composted animal manures, worker hygienic practices, post-harvest handling practices, and product trace-back. This is new territory for most Pennsylvania fruit and vegetable growers and Penn State Extension is committed to helping the state’s agricultural producers tackle this new challenge.

The Penn State Farm Food Safety web site at is your resource for tools you can use to start writing a food safety plan. Included in the site are sections titled ―What are Good Agricultural Practices?‖ ―How does my farm compare with national GAP standards?‖ ―How do I write a food safety plan?‖ and perhaps most importantly ―Where can I get help?‖ The site also includes a template farm food safety plan with checklists and forms designed to make documentation of your practices simple and straightforward.

This winter, Penn State Cooperative Extension will be holding several farm food safety training workshops throughout the state and you can expect to hear more about these in the coming weeks. The curriculum will include a discussion of farm food safety standards based on the USDA GAP audit program. In addition, we will guide participants through some of the more difficult aspects of farm food safety, e.g., how to document practices through a written plan, how to get water tested and what to test for, traceability issues, how to conduct mock recalls and more.

For more information on farm food safety and upcoming training workshops, visit the Penn State Farm Food Safety web site, or contact Dr. Luke LaBorde at 814-863-2298 or