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A Historical Perspective on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)
Fresh fruits and vegetables are important to the health and well being of the American consumer. Americans enjoy one of the safest supplies of fresh produce in the world. However, over the last several years, the detection of outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with both domestic and imported fresh fruits and vegetables has increased.
In a January 1997 radio address, President Bill Clinton announced a Food Safety Initiative to improve the safety of the nation’s food supply. In May 1997, as part of the President’s Food Safety Initiative, the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent to the President a report that identified produce as an area of concern. On October 2, 1997, President Clinton announced a plan, “Initiative to Ensure the Safety of Imported and Domestic Fruits and Vegetables” (Produce Safety Initiative), to provide further assurance that fruits and vegetables consumed by Americans, whether grown domestically or imported from other countries, meet the highest health and safety standards. As part of this initiative, the President directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the Secretary of Agriculture and in close cooperation with the agricultural community, to issue guidance on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for fruits and vegetables.
The produce guide, GAPs and GMPs
are guidance and not regulations.
The guide was one of the first steps under President Clinton’s Produce Safety Initiative to improve the safety of fresh produce as it moves from the farm to family. The guide covers production and packing of fresh produce. However, the Food Safety Initiative is not limited to the farm. It focuses on all stages of the farm-to-table food chain. For example, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Code provides advice and information to state and local agencies about safe food handling practices in grocery stores, institutions, restaurants and other retail establishments.
FDA is also actively seeking assistance from the Conference for Food Protection (a consortium of state, local and federal agencies, academia, and consumer and industry representatives) in identifying practical interventions that may assist in reducing or eliminating microbial contamination of fresh produce at the retail level. In addition, as part of the Food Safety Initiative, educational outreach programs, such as the “Fight Bac” campaign, will promote improved safe food handling by consumers. Current administration, FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) support these efforts.