There are various types of GAPs plans including self-attested, self-certified, second party verified and third party audited. Growers should choose the type of plan that works best for them and satisfies the demands of the market they are supplying:
Self-Attest – means a grower understands GAPs and is following the principles on their farm. It is a good idea to have some basic records to prove you are following GAPs, they are not required.
Self-Certify – the grower will have a plan for their farm and a checklist of items they must ensure are included in the plan and in practice on their operation.
Second Party Verification – this does not occur too often; however, there are cases where a grower will develop a plan and usually a buyer will come out and take a walk through of the field and review various records to ensure “you are saying what you are doing, and doing what you are saying.”
Third Party Audited –the grower has a completely documented plan that a certifying agency comes out and verifies. This company is paid for its service and will audit the farm as well as the documented plan and record.
The GAPs plan a grower decides to follow is often dependent on what the market the grower is supplying is asking for. Before deciding what type of a plan to develop, growers need to understand what their supplier is asking for. Note that some buyers may be asking for something specific and others may not be asking for anything at all. The following are a list of questions to ask yourself before making a decision. (Note: Even if your buyer is not asking for a plan, it is recommended that you follow GAPs and keep some basic records to help with traceability.)
- Is my buyer/market asking for a GAPs/food safety plan? If so, what type of plan is my buyer asking for?
If a third party audit is required consider the following questions…
- Is it required for all crops supplied to the buyer or just specific crops? Some buyers have categorized crops into high, medium and low risk crops, and may only be demanding third party verification for high risk crops. Some buyers require third party verification in order to sell to them.
- Is the buyer asking for a specific company to do the verification? Some buyers just want a third party audit and don’t specify a particular auditing company; other buyers may specifically identify which auditing program they want employed.
- Are there other growers in your region or nearby who may need to go through a third party audit as well? Is it the same program you need to go through? Can you work to coordinate the audit dates? Some auditing firms do provide a cost break if multiple audits are coordinated in a region at the same time. If you are aware of others in the area looking for an audit, it would be good to see if you can coordinate the audit to save on costs.
If self-certification or a second party audit is needed…
- Is the buyer going to supply you with a checklist of what you and/or they will need to verify?
Third Party Verification Programs
There are a number of third party auditing firms, each with a slightly different program. Cost may vary slightly or significantly depending on your location and the company you decide to use. (Note: Always ensure your buyer is not mandating a certain company or program for verification). The following are links to some of the auditing companies and/or their specific programs: