Third-party audits are voluntary programs that assess a farm's food safety practices for minimizing food safety hazards. These audits are “voluntary” but are often required by buyers to help assure food safety of the produce they obtain from a grower. Many of these audit schemes align with the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule. However, a successful third party audit is not a substitute for a FSMA Produce Safety Rule inspection. The CDFA Produce Safety Program will conduct an inspection regardless of whether or not a farm has received a previous third party audit.
USDA AMS programs
- Community Alliance with Family Farmers cost-share program for water testing (CAFF) CAFF can support growers with funds to subsidize USDA Harmonized GAP and GAP+ audits.
- USDA Good Agricultural Practices & Good Handling Practices (GAP&GHP) audit verification program In January 2002, USDA AMS formally implemented the USDA Good Agricultural Practices & Good Handling Practices (GAP&GHP) audit verification program. This voluntary program is offered to the fruit and vegetable industry to verify an operation’s efforts to minimize the risk of contamination of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts by microbial pathogens. The program does not guarantee the product is free from microbial contamination, but verifies the participant has taken proactive measures to reduce the risk of contamination by adhering to generally recognized industry best practices. The responsibility for product safety and the continued observance of best practices rests with the operation producing and handling the fresh product.
- USDA Harmonized GAP and USDA Harmonized GAP+ audits These are the two most comprehensive audits USDA offers. Both audits are aligned with the technical provisions in FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule, meet the requirements for the Produce GAP Harmonization Initiative and demonstrate adherence to industry and FDA best practices. The USDA Harmonized GAP Plus+ audit additionally meets buyer requirements for Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) audits. One audit can meet a number of marketing needs for producers.
- California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement: The California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) was formed to protect public health by reducing potential sources of contamination in California-grown leafy greens. LGMA membership requires verification of compliance with the accepted food safety practices through mandatory government audits. AMS Specialty Crops Inspection (SCI) Division provides oversight for commodity specific audits performed to satisfy the requirements of the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement. These voluntary, independent audits of produce suppliers are performed throughout the production and supply chain.
- The GLOBALG.A.P. is an audit scheme designed to minimize food safety risks for growers selling globally. There is an add-on component for the audit to specifically address the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. This can be useful for those producing or selling domestically, or growers from other countries wanting to sell products in the US.
- PrimusGFS is a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognized audit Certification Program for the certification of produce sector products — from growing operations to minimally-processed(fresh-cut) produce products. Depending on the operation being audited, PrimusGFS audits include Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS), Good Agricultural Practices (GAP’s), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP’s) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP).