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NC State Extension

GAPS Basics

Eight Basic Principles of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)

By identifying basic principles of microbial food safety within the realm of growing, harvesting, packing and transporting fresh produce, growers will be better prepared to recognize and address the principal elements known to give rise to microbial food safety concerns.

  1. Prevention of microbial contamination of fresh produce is favored over reliance on corrective actions once contamination has occurred.
  2. To minimize microbial food safety hazards in fresh produce, growers, packers or shippers should use good agricultural and management practices in those areas over which they have control.
  3. Fresh produce can become microbiologically contaminated at any point along the farm-to-table food chain. The major source of microbial contamination with fresh produce is associated with human or animal feces.
  4. Whenever water comes in contact with produce, its source and quality dictates the potential for contamination. Minimize the potential of microbial contamination from water used with fresh fruits and vegetables.
  5. Practices using animal manure or municipal biosolid wastes should be managed closely to minimize the potential for microbial contamination of fresh produce.
  6. Worker hygiene and sanitation practices during production, harvesting, sorting, packing and transport play a critical role in minimizing the potential for microbial contamination of fresh produce.
  7. Follow all applicable local, state and federal laws and regulations, or corresponding or similar laws, regulations or standards for operators outside the U.S., for agricultural practices.
  8. Accountability at all levels of the agricultural environment (farm, packing facility, distribution center and transport operation) is important to a successful food safety program. There must be qualified personnel and effective monitoring to ensure that all elements of the program function correctly and to help track produce back through the distribution channels to the producer.


Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables
“The Guide” is the foundation from which the eight principles were derived. Developed by the Food and Drug Administration, this is a comprehensive resource for Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs).

Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
This guidance document addresses microbial food safety hazards and good agricultural and management practices common to the growing, harvesting, washing, sorting, packing and transporting of most fruits and vegetables sold to consumers in an unprocessed or minimally processed (raw) form. Developed by the Food and Drug Administration in 1998.

Food Safety Begins on the Farm
Cornell’s picture-filled booklet and explanation of GAPs for growers. (2000)