Farm Food Safety Plans, Training, and Audits: Resources Available
Farm Food Safety Plans: For many growers, a written food safety plan is a good first step. This plan need not be complicated. In many cases, creating a food safety plan won’t add additional tasks or equipment, but will provide a record of practices that are already in place, like hand-washing. Creating the food safety plan may also alert growers to simple food safety practices that they may have been overlooked.
- Ag Matters LLC in Maine has a good farm food safety template. Growers should adapt the plan to their own particular circumstances.
- The UMass Extension GAPs Food Safety Manual (see below) also includes sample farm food safety plans.
Farm Food Safety Training: UMass Extension and other organizations offer regular food safety training. Training can help growers develop food safety plans, identify and correct areas of weakness, and decide whether formal food safety audits are needed for their farm business.
- The UMass Extension Food Safety Program web page provides information about training. The UMass Extension GAPs Food Safety Manual, also available through this site, includes a valuable collection of resources related to farm safety planning and audits.
- Watch CISA’s events page for additional food safety trainings in the region.
Audits and Third Party Certification: Audits and certification provide verification that farms have implemented food safety plans and practices. This verification may be required by some buyers.
- Farmers in Massachusetts may receive Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification and/or Commonwealth Quality Program (CQP) certification. The website of the MA Department of Agricultural Resources has more information on the food safety audits required for GAP certification and CQP certification.
- This introduction to food safety audits also provides definitions for the terms commonly used to describe food safety protocols—GAPs, GMPs, HAACP, and more.
- The UMass GAP manual mentioned above includes lots of information about audits, and their website includes a wealth of other information about food safety.
- This USDA GAPs audit checklist can help you understand what is expected in a GAPs audit.
Reducing the Legal Risks of a Food Safety Incident
Resources: Try the Farm Commons Guide, released by Farm Commons. This resource will help farmers to understand the legal aspects of food safety, some of the many risks that exist, how to reduce the likelihood of these risks materializing, and how to recover in case they do materialize – because bad things can happen to even the best farmers.
More specifically, the guide will help farmers to understand the following situations and the necessary steps to take in each case:
- How personal injury lawsuits function
- How contracts can create additional liability
- The legal aspects of a recall
- The potential for government involvement in a food safety outbreak
Recent and Upcoming Legislation
Resources: Up-to-date information on upcoming legislation and regulations is available at the following websites…
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition;
- Massachusetts Farm Bureau, particularly for Massachusetts laws and regulations;
- CISA’s newsletters
Food Safety Modernization Act: The Food Safety Modernization Act was passed in January 2011. This FAQ from the Organic Farming Research Foundation and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition answers some questions about the Act and what it directs the FDA to do. In January 2013 the FDA released two proposed rules for implementing the Act – the “Produce Rule” and the “Preventive Controls Rule.” In response to extensive public comments, the FDA issued revised rules in September 2014 and requested public comment on the revisions. For up-to-date information on the Act, see the FDA’s web page here.
Ready-to-eat Salad Greens: CISA has generated detailed additional information for producers of ready-to-eat salad greens here.
In 2011, CISA was supported in compiling these resources by RBEG and our community members. CISA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
The following resources may also be helpful:
- The Washington State Department of Agriculture’s ‘Bridging the GAPs‘ Project
- FamilyFarmed.org‘s On-Farm Food Safety Project
- The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s GAPs Manual