How do institutional food service professionals know that food from their suppliers is safe?


December 17, 2018 - <>, Community Food Systems Educator,

Introduction  |  Methods  |  Commonly Accepted Farm Food Safety Programs  |  Read more

This brief shares the results of a short anonymous survey to institutional food service buyers in the Michigan Farm to Institution Network.


Running an institution’s food service program is a complex task that requires knowledge of food preparation, budgets, contract negotiation, inventory management, staffing, and in many cases, federal nutrition standards and reimbursement programs. On top of that, there are kitchen licensing requirements, food safety certifications for staff (ServSafe), and general day-to-day food safety practices of the operation.

Institutional food service buyers rely on their suppliers to provide safe food. How do they know that their suppliers have followed safe food production and handling practices? The answer to this question varies from institution to institution.

Some institutional food service programs require suppliers to conform to a specific food safety certification program, while others will accept a variety of assurances.


A short anonymous survey was distributed via email in January and February 2018 to the MFIN, and 38 responses were collected. Just over half (58%) of respondents indicated that their institution requires some sort of food safety verification or certification from their fresh produce suppliers, which can include distributors and/or individual farms.

Commonly Accepted Farm Food Safety Programs

As shown in the graphic on page 1, the most commonly accepted farm food safety programs among the reporting institutions were farm food safety plans/manuals and USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) standards in the forms of USDA GAP/ GHP, USDA GroupGAP (which uses the same standard as USDA GAP), and USDA Harmonized GAP.

At the time of the survey’s development, acceptance and awareness of the Michigan Produce Safety Risk Assessment, launched in the spring of 2018, was unable to be measured.

All of the programs listed in the graphic, with the exception of the farm food safety plan and farm visit, involve third-party certification of the farm’s activities. Among the responding institutions, 22% require their suppliers to work with a certain certification provider, while 78% allow for use of any third-party certifier.

Read about perceptions of accountability, buyer confidence, and more in the full brief.



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