A group of some 50 produce industry leaders from every stage of the supply chain came together to begin work on a major initiative to drive harmonization of standards and audits for Good Agricultural Practices. The group was convened following widespread interest in harmonization voiced by industry leaders at the Global Conference on Produce Food Safety Standards held in conjunction with the United Fresh Produce Association convention in April.
The Produce GAP Harmonization Initiative is led by a steering committee chaired by Brian Kocher, president, Chiquita Brands North America. A number of industry leaders participated in a conference call to discuss the concept of GAP harmonization and a draft process to launch the initiative. Since that time, a wide cross-section of produce grower-shippers, processors, distributors, foodservice operators, retailers and association representatives came together to express their support for the effort and join the steering committee, which held its first meeting September 22 in Atlanta.
“Produce business leaders clearly raised this need for harmonized GAP standards,” Kocher said. “This effort addresses one of our most important challenges–the proliferation of audits and standards that do nothing to improve overall food safety yet contribute to duplication, inefficiency and add unnecessary costs to consumers. Tackling that challenge will require the participation of the industry as a whole, and I’m excited about the initial participation thus far.”
“Our vision is to ensure the highest level of food safety protection for our consumers by ensuring that science-based GAP standards address the most critical prevention steps necessary, that the industry develop and embrace audits and checklists that are consistent in measuring these practices, and that these tools allow for rigorous independent validation. Our goal is that one audit by any credible third party can be acceptable to all buyers,” Kocher said.