USDA Harmonized GAP and GAP PLUS+ Standards Webinar Questions and Answers

Below are responses to questions submitted by attendees during the webinar.


Q1: Could you please provide a direct link for the summary of changes document

Q2: Could you please provide a link for the new standards?

Q3: Is your slide presentation available via email to forward onto staff?

Yes. You can view the recording of the webinar at: 

Q4: Has the revised guidance document been released

USDA has updated the standards. We plan to release the updated USDA Harmonized Guidance Manual late spring.

Q5: What does it mean to be "technically equivalent" to the GFSI standard? How does it differ from GFSI Recognition?

Technical Equivalence is a category of GFSI benchmarking for government-owned standards. It acknowledges the equivalence of the standard’s content to the relevant scope(s) of the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements Part III. Unlike GFSI recognition, Technical Equivalence does not include the assessment of the program’s governance and operational management.

Q6: We sell potatoes through the USDA National School Lunch Program. What audit programs does the USDA recognize to be approved for the selling of those products, does a GFSI benchmarked audit meet the requirements?

Purchases for the USDA National School Lunch Program are currently commodity specific. For potatoes the current bid requires that vendors or subcontractors who are supplying fresh vegetables are required to undergo and pass the USDA AMS SCP Specialty Crop Inspection Division (SCID) Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) verification audits, and must score at least 80% on each of the following scopes for each product being offered:

GAP - Farm Review AND Field Harvesting & Field Packing Activities
GHP - House Packing Facility AND Storage & Transportation

All these requirements must be met PRIOR to the bid opening date.

Harmonized GAP Audit Standard

Q1:  Does re-used water require a treatment if the produce is being further processed (later acidified or fermented)?

If an auditee is using recirculated or reused water, regardless if the produce is being further processed in the production chain, it is expected that the water will be treated with a sanitizer to prevent cross contamination of product/lots.

Q2: What is an acceptable level of generic E. coli in irrigation water?

The USDA GAP programs do not set specific microbial requirements for water testing for pre-harvest water, but instead rely on each auditee to set their own science-based microbial threshold(s) based on industry best practices, regulations, relevant science, and their own risk assessment of when their water source(s) is at regular versus elevated microbial risk.

Harmonized GAP Plus+ Audit Standard

Q1: For F-11.8.a. the requirement for a product release procedure, are there any examples of what this documentation would look like? If harvested product is clear of contamination (ex. potatoes harvested from field), are records required for each truck heading to storage or can records indicate if there is contamination and product should not go into storage?

The USDA GAP program is not prescriptive of what type of record template must be used to record product released from the field to the facility. An operation can design their own template to fit the needs of their operation. Release records are required for each load leaving the field.