FSMA and GAP are not the same

Being GAP-certified is not the same as being FSMA compliant. Check with your buyer first to determine if you need a GAP certification above and beyond being FSMA compliant.

With the advent of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), we now have a uniform minimum standard of food safety that the overwhelming majority of fresh produce growers must adhere to. The key with FSMA is that it is a minimum requirement. It will not eliminate buyer imposed programs for food safety, such as Good Agriculture Practice (GAP,) that are already in place. Even if a farm is FSMA compliant, they may still need to be certified under one or more GAPs to sell to certain buyers.

There are several different “brands” of GAP certification, each with their own special requirements and certification agency. Primus GAP is one example of a brand of GAP certification. A particular retailer or processor may not accept your product unless you are Primus GAP certified. The type of GAP certification required is wholly the choice of the produce buying company. In some cases, a grower may need two or more certifications to sell to several different buyers. It is best to ask your produce buyer what certification they want first before even starting a GAP manual.

All certifications cost time and money. You need to gather the information ahead of time and maybe adjust handling practices. You need to keep more records of your management. You need to pay to have the auditor spend a day with you on farm. The total process may cost as much as $2,000 in actual money and more than that in devoting time to the process.

The good news is that often food safety is the same, irrespective of the audit that a grower needs to perform. The food safety manual for a particular audit will be virtually the same for another audit under two different GAP brands. This saves time upfront when a grower needs more than one audit.

If you sell to a retailer or processor, good communication is the key to effectively meeting the certification needs of your buyer. Ask them what brand of GAP certification they want. In many cases, there are only marginal differences between GAP certifications, but they are different and not interchangeable. Ask your produce buyer what certification they want first before beginning to assemble a GAP manual.

If you have specific questions about GAPs or have difficulty tailoring GAPs to your farm, contact the Michigan State University Extension Agrifood Safety Work Group at gaps@msu.edu or 517-788-4292.

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