The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants the support of specialty crop growers as it seeks to boost the status of its food safety certification standard.
The USDA is seeking comments on its bid for the USDA’s Harmonized GAP Plus+ standard to be recognized as technically equivalent to the Global Food Safety Initiative’s food safety benchmarking requirements.
The USDA began the technical equivalence process at the request of the specialty crops industry to align the USDA Good Agricultural Practices Program with industry recognized food safety audit requirements and to provide growers with a single government-based certification program that meets multiple market access requirements, according to a news release.
The USDA’s Harmonized GAP Plus+ Standard is an extension of the existing USDA Harmonized GAP audit, according to the release. The audit is based on the Produce GAPs Harmonized Food Safety Standard, an industry-led initiative to cut the number of audits required to achieve market access.
GFSI on May 23 opened a 30-day comment period on the USDA’s application for GFSI technical equivalence, according to the release. Comments can be submitted on the GFSI website, according to the release.
“The pursuit of GFSI technical equivalence continues USDA’s commitment to growing marketing opportunities for specialty crops producers, increasing purchasing options for buyers, and providing consumers with access to more and diverse fresh, local produce,” the USDA said in the release.