USDA Updates Harmonized GAP Food Safety Audit Checklists

February 16, 2021

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is updating the USDA Harmonized Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and GAP Plus+ audit checklists. These updates become effective May 1, 2021 and will allow AMS’s GAP audit services to remain applicable and relevant for its specialty crops industry customers.

Specialty crops producers, buyers and others may sign up now for a free webinar hosted by AMS experts at 1 p.m. ET on March 8, 2021, to discuss the revisions to the checklists.

Specialty crop buyers often require rigorous third-party food safety certifications from produce growers to gain market access. AMS offers several different types of voluntary GAP audits to suppliers throughout the production and supply chain that focus on best agricultural practices to verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled and stored in the safest manner possible to minimize risks of food safety hazards. Customers who request this voluntary audit service pay fees that cover audit and administration costs, including auditor travel time and expenses.

The USDA Harmonized GAP audit checklist will be updated to align with the Produce GAPs Harmonized Combined Standard. Updates will include:

  • New requirements related to sanitation, hazard analysis and packing materials
  • Incorporating Tomato Audit Protocol metrics into the USDA Harmonized GAP standard

The USDA Harmonized GAP Plus+ audit checklist changes are required to maintain alignment with updates to USDA’s technical equivalence acknowledgment from the Global Food Safety Initiative’s (GFSI), which allows GAP Plus+ audits to meet U.S. and international food safety requirements. Key updates include:

  • Requirements for a cleaning and sanitation program for food contact surfaces
  • Environmental monitoring programs for microbiological hazards requiring a control identified in the hazard analysis of the packinghouse
  • Actions related to the use and shelf life of materials

For more information on the updates to the checklists or the webinar, contact Jennifer Dougherty, AMS Audit Services Branch, at or (703) 328-7562.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender