Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)

Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)

Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) are essential to the production of safe foods. This section outlines recommendations on management of personnel, tools and equipment, water, soil, and animal monitoring procedures to limit the inadvertent transfer and spread of enteric viruses. The program addresses GAPs and related recommendations in the critical areas of water management, worker health and hygiene and waste management.

Narrow your search below by category, keyword or search term. The recommendations are organized by the following categories:
Pre-harvest: Preharvest food safety measures and interventions are implemented on the farm or in the field to prevent or reduce introduction of enteric viruses onto food products.
Harvest: Enteric virus prevention is also important during harvesting. These resources focus on proper use of equipment and tools, effective handwashing techniques, and safe food handling practices.

Post-harvest: Resource materials include management of personnel, proper clean-up and disinfection methods, and food handling education and training materials.

Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Recommendations

Recommendations

Agricultural Water Contamination

Pre-Harvest

If the water test results indicate possible fecal contamination (e.g.: high count of fecal coliforms), test agricultural water for Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and Norovirus (NoV).

1. Establish sampling method and frequency considering the source of water, history of water quality, water distribution system, the intended use of water and if the water is contacting the fruit.

2. If enteric virus is detected in water, hold activities involving the contaminated water, repeat the water test to look for source of contamination and confirm the presence of virus.

3. Consider changing water source and notify local health authorities.

Agricultural Water Treatment

Pre-Harvest

Treat water before use if the water does not meet the potable water standard required by local regulation or with WHO recommendations.

Chemicals and Sanitizers for Washing Fruits

Post-Harvest

Follow scientifically valid chemical concentration and contact time parameters for washing fruits (parameters can be based on regulation, industry guidance and/or scientific studies). For example, sodium hypochlorite concentration should not exceed 200 ppm free chlorine when used as sanitizing solution according to CFR title 21, Chapter I, Subchapter B, Part 178. In the USDA Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices Audit Verification Program, chlorine is mentioned to be added to water for post-harvest treatment of fresh produce at 50 -200 ppm total chlorine for 1 to 2 minutes.

Children, Infants and Babies on the Farm

Harvest

Young children, infants, and babies may be infected with enteric viruses and be asymptomatic, and may pose the risk of spreading Hepatitis A or Norovirus infections or contaminating food

1. Ensure that young children, infants, babies and pets are prohibited from entering the fields during harvesting.

Clean-up procedures related to contamination with Enteric Viruses

Harvest

Develop a clean-up plan to manage release of bodily fluids resulting from vomiting or diarrhea as they are possible source of virus contamination

1. Train employees on procedures to handle clean-up of contaminated surfaces and safe disposal of contaminated products (food and non-food) exposed to bodily fluid to prevent further cross contamination.

Clean-up procedures related to contamination with Enteric Viruses

Pre-Harvest

Develop a clean-up plan to manage release of bodily fluids resulting from vomiting or diarrhea as they are possible sources of virus contamination

1. Train employees on procedures to handle clean-up of contaminated surfaces and safe disposal of contaminated products (food and non-food) exposed to bodily fluid to prevent further cross contamination.

2. Establish an employee health monitoring procedure

Cleaning and Sanitation of Harvesting Tools and Containers

Harvest

Harvesting equipment (tools, packaging, containers, etc.) can all be sources of contamination

2. For reusable containers, packaging and tools, the material and design should be easy to clean, maintain and appropriate for their intended use

Cleaning and Sanitation of Tools

Post-Harvest

Tools, utensils and other implements in the facility can cross contaminate harvested fruits

1. All tools, utensils, cloths and sponges used to clean raw fruits or food contact surfaces should be cleaned and sanitized at least daily.

2. If organic matter builds up on sponges and cloths or if they appear to be contaminated, they should be immediately discarded and replaced prior to cleaning operations.

Communal and Seasonal Housing of Workers

Harvest

Management may provide worker housing, if so, these accommodations should ensure hygienic living conditions

1. All on-farm living quarters should meet habitable standards (sound roof, windows and doors)

2. Basic amenities such as drinking water, good ventilation, and bathroom facilities with adequate drains

3. In the event drains are not possible in bathrooms, septic pits that are compliant with local regulations may be utilized.

Criteria for Fruit Harvesting

Harvest

Criteria for Fruit Harvesting

1. Establish a procedure to prevent harvesting overripe, decayed, or damaged fruits, fruits that have dropped to the ground, fruits damaged by animals, pests, or insects, fruits contaminated by feces.

2. Train workers on criteria for fruit harvesting.

Farm and Facility Vehicles

Post-Harvest

Facility Transportation Storage

1. Farm vehicles, pallets, containers or bins used to transport harvested produce and/or packed products are cleaned and maintained to prevent contamination (e.g. soil, dirt, animal manure, spills, etc.)

2. Protect unused clean and new packing containers from contamination while in storage.

Fecal Contamination of Agricultural Water

Pre-Harvest

Human enteric viruses are possibly present in any kind of water contaminated by human fecal material and by sewage, and can survive for a long time in water, soil, surfaces, fruits and vegetables.

1. Allow sufficient time (e.g.: 21 days to the harvest schedule for leafy greens) between irrigation and harvest to ensure an appropriate decline in pathogen populations.

2. In absence of scientific studies on microbial die-off rate, consider using suggestions in the FSMA Microbial standard of agricultural water (0.5 log per day) or implementing microbial reduction activities after harvesting, such as washing. Above mentioned die-off rates are for bacteria, it is hard to conclude a decay rate for enteric virus for all fresh procedure because the experimental conditions and results varied.

Field Inspection

Harvest

All farms and fields should be inspected prior to harvest.

1. Inspect fields for evidence of animal/pest activities, feces, damaged fruits, ripe or overripe fruits dropped on the ground, fruits damaged by flooding

Health and Hygiene Information

Post-Harvest

Health and Hygiene Training  

1. Signs with the key hygiene instructions should be visibly displayed in relevant locations.

2. Clear instructions must be shared to ensure all workers wash hands before handling raw fruit.

3. In general, all workers handling ready-to-eat products are expected to wash hands prior to start of work, after each visit to a toilet, after handling contaminated material, after smoking or eating (in designated areas), after breaks, and at any other time when their hands may have been exposed to potential contamination.

INSPECTION OF AGRICULTURAL WATER SOURCE AND DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM

Pre-Harvest

Ensuring that water distributed to the processing facility is safe and clean during the season

1. At least once per year inspect water source and storage and distribution equipment to identify possible sources of contamination. The inspection should be prior to the last application of water (such as irrigation and plant protection products dilution). Additional inspection and tests are needed if water quality is likely affected, for instance, after flood. hurricane, etc.

INSPECTION OF HARVEST WATER SOURCE AND DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM

Harvest

Inspect the water source and water distribution system for any possible contamination including animal and pest activities, trash, debris, accumulation of rotten fruits.

Locker Room Management

Post-Harvest

Management should provide designated rooms for changing clothes

1. All employees should use these facilities to change clothing and any protective outer garments as needed.

Maintaining Hygienic Conditions in Packing and Processing Areas

Post-Harvest

After harvest, fruits should be packed and processed under hygienic conditions

1. Shield these areas from intrusion by animals, birds and pests.

2. Ideally, all cleaning, packing and processing activities should occur in indoor areas which are protected by walls, doors and roof; If these areas are not sheltered appropriately and exposed to the outdoors, then install other barriers such as netting.

Management of Bathroom and Restroom Facilities

Harvest

Proper management of portable toilets and grey water from handwashing

Management of Septic Tank Units

Harvest

Documentation of Septic Tank Management

1. Records of septic tank pumping should be maintained and completed by an authorized third-party service provider.

Managing Sick/Ill Persons and Employees

Harvest

Precluding sick employees from coming to work prevents the potential for food and surface contamination

1. Sick or injured employees should not be allowed to work on tasks that may contaminate the fruits or food contact surfaces

2. Do not let any sick or injured employee harvest fruits even if the employee is protected with mask and gloves.

Monitoring Employee Health

Harvest

Monitoring employee health conditions, especially prior to harvest, helps preclude sick employees from coming to work and potentially infecting other employees and contaminating food

1. Farm management should incorporate active health monitoring systems

2. Operations should develop a detailed employee health monitoring procedure

3. All health monitoring activities should be documented and stored for easy retrieval.

Monitoring Microbial Quality of Processing Water

Post-Harvest

Monitor the microbial quality of processing water in direct contact with fruit periodically.

1. When test results indicate fecal contamination, test the water for Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and Norovirus (NoV).

2. If virus contamination is confirmed, consider change water source, hold activities involving water, and notify health authorities.

Procesing Equipment

Post-Harvest

Facilities should allocate specific packing and processing areas comprised of appropriate equipment

1. The packing area and equipment that come in contact with fruits should be cleaned and sanitized at least daily.

Processing Facility and Infrasctructure

Post-Harvest

Infrastructure needed for packing and processing of fruits

1. The facility for packing or collection of fruits should be of adequate size and allow cleaning and disinfection.

2. The facility should be designed to prevent accumulation of water on the floor and avoid leaking.

Removal of Trash and Waste

Post-Harvest

Trash and waste management is a critical component of clean and hygienic environment.

1. Remove any packaging material, extraneous matter and other non-produce waste from the field.

Sanitation in Farms and Processing Facilities

Harvest

Harvest workers should have access to clean sanitation facilities

1. Provide potable water, and ample hand washing stations that are inside bathrooms or near toilet facilities.

2. Ensure workers wash hands properly with soap or other effective surfactant and running potable water

3. Do not provide or allow the use of hand sanitizer as a substitute for soap and water.

Sources of Agricultural Water

Pre-Harvest

Use potable water from closed water sources for irrigation and application of crop protection products whenever it is possible.  

1. The source of potable water is preferably from municipal systems or wells.

2. Monitor the water microbial quality regularly to ensure the safety of water.

Testing of Food Contact Surfaces

Post-Harvest

Swab food contact surfaces and test for bacterial indicators (such as E. coli, fecal coliform or total coliform) at least once a month during production. When test results indicate fecal contamination, test for Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and Norovirus (NoV). If virus is detected, reinforce surface disinfection, repeat test to confirm contamination, and isolate affected surfaces until the contamination is removed.

Testing of Food Contact Surfaces

Harvest

Swab food contact surfaces and test for bacterial indicators (such as E. coli, fecal coliform or total coliform) at least on the first day of harvesting and in the middle of the season. When test results indicate fecal contamination, test for enteric viruses including Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and Norovirus (NoV). If virus is detected, reinforce surface disinfection, repeat test to confirm contamination, and isolate affected surfaces until the contamination is removed.

Testing of Fruit

Harvest

Test harvested fruits for Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and Norovirus (NoV) at least once per season or if other fruit test results indicate fecal contamination. If virus is detected, stop harvesting, repeat test to confirm the contamination and reinforce sanitation activities. Do not consume or distribute the contaminated fruit.

Testing of Fruits

Post-Harvest

Test finished products for Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and Norovirus (NoV) at least once per month during production. If virus is detected, isolate affected lot(s) and repeat test to confirm the scope of contamination. Do not consume or distribute the affected lot(s). Discard or dispose the fruit according to regulatory requirement or internal protocols.

Testing of Workers Hands

Post-Harvest

Swab plant workers’ hands and test for bacterial indicators (such as E. coli, fecal coliform or total coliform) every 2 months without prior notice. When test results indicating fecal contamination, test for Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and Norovirus (NoV). If virus is detected, temporarily remove the person affected from positions requiring direct contact with food, verify the health condition of the person and repeat test to confirm the infection. If viral infection is confirmed, the plant worker shall not return to work until NoV and/or HAV infection is confirmed negative. Consider increase the number and frequency of test if virus is detected repetitively.

Testing of Workers Hands

Harvest

Swab hands of harvesters or other farm workers in direct contact with fruit and test for bacterial indicators (such as E. coli or fecal coliform) at least on the first day of harvesting and in the middle of the season. When test results indicate fecal contamination, test for Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and Norovirus (NoV). If virus is detected, remove the person temporarily from positions requiring direct contact with food, verify the health condition of the person and repeat test to confirm the infection. If viral infection is confirmed, the person shall not return to work until NoV and/or HAV infection is confirmed negative. Consider increase the number and frequency of test if virus is detected repetitively.

Types of Irrigation

Pre-Harvest

Prevent contact between harvestable crops and the water (use drip irrigation versus overhead aerial spray).

1. Drip irrigation is prefered as water is unlikely to touch fruits.

– Furrow irrigation represents medium risk AND – Sprinkler is the riskiest irrigation method

Use of Restroom and Bathroom Facilities

Harvest

Proper use of bathrooms and restrooms

1. Reinforce the importance of proper hygiene in restrooms and bathrooms

2. Educate the importance and food safety risks associated with improper use of bathrooms before and during harvesting activities.

Use of Soil Amendments

Pre-Harvest

Raw manure may be used in the farm as a soil amendment

Use of Wash Water in the Facility

Harvest

Wash water used for cleaning and rinsing equipment, utensils or tools should meet potable water standards.

Washing of Produce

Post-Harvest

Use an appropriate washing method to reduce the microbial load on fresh produce.

1. For produce not easily bruised or injured, immersion bath is generally preferred than sprays due to the better surface coverage.

2. If an immersion tank is used, the wash water in water tank shall be replaced regularly to avoid cross-contamination from one batch to another.

3. Water quality should be maintained to not to introduce contamination in all washing systems.

4. To decide when to refresh water, either measure turbidity or monitor the water visually with a clearly defined criteria (e.g.: a photo of water with organic matter build-up that need refreshing).

5. If possible, use a series of washes with antimicrobial chemical to achieve a better result.

Water Testing During Harvest Operations

Harvest

Test water for bacterial indicators (such as E.coli, fecal coliforms or total coliforms). Frequency of water test varies depending on the water source, history of water quality, intended use of water and if water is in contact with fruits. When test results indicate fecal contamination, test the water for hepatitis A virus (HAV) and norovirus (NoV). If virus is detected, stop activities involving water (such as equipment sanitation and harvesting), repeat the water test to look for source of contamination and confirmed the presence of virus. Consider changing water source and notify local health authorities.

Water used during Harvest Operations

Harvest

Any ice or water used in relation to harvest or cooling should meet microbial standards for drinking water and should be handled under hygienic conditions to prevent contamination.

Water used for Post-Harvest Operations

Post-Harvest

Use potable water for all cleaning and washing activities.

3. Monitor the microbial quality of treated water and the concentration of disinfectant added frequently to prevent the wash water to become the source of contamination.

4. When measuring the concentration of disinfectant, choose a method that can give a value of concentration, such as titration or colorimeter instead of test strips which can only estimate a range of concentration.

Water used in Wash Tanks

Post-Harvest

Water used in the wash tank (dump tank) should be warmer than the fruit being washed so as to reduce the infiltration of wash water into the fruit. When infiltration occurs, cold water creates air pockets within the produce which lead to a pressure differential that pulls water into the produce, microorganisms in wash water may be pulled into spaces inside the produce and subsequent washing steps will not be able to reduce these microorganisms.

1. Monitor the temperature of water to ensure it is always warmer than fruit being washed or cool the fruit before washing.

Worker Behaviors on the Field

Harvest

It is good hygienic practice to avoid smoking, eating, chewing or drinking during harvesting operations

1. Smoking, eating, chewing, and drinking should be confined only to designated areas and away from crops

2. Smoking, eating, chewing, and drinking should not be permitted in the fruit handling or storage areas, unless indicated otherwise by an extensive hygiene risk assessment (drinking water can be an exception)

Worker Health and Hygiene and Food Safety Training

Harvest

Worker health and hygiene training and food safety training is a critical component of preventing enteric virus contamination during harvesting

2. All workers should be able to distinguish between contaminated or potentially contaminated fruits, fecal matter, traces of animal/insect body parts, damaged plants or fruits, and the discern general cleanliness of harvesting tools and containers.

3. Establish a verification program for good handling practices during harvesting

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