Harmonized GAP Plus+ Audits

Harmonized GAP Plus+ audits add an additional layer of food safety controls onto the Harmonized GAP requirements. These additional questions are designed to answer concerns for global markets and have been recognized as providing GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) technical equivalency.

Additional topics in the Harmonized GAP Plus+ audits include product identification on packaging, labeling and chemical residue requirements for countries-of-export, control of non-conforming product, sourcing of seed stock and propagation materials, HACCP plans for Critical Control Points (CCPs) identified in packing houses, and more.

As with the Harmonized GAP audits, the General Questions are reviewed with every audit, and the business may choose which of the following scopes they want audited:

  • Field Operations & Harvesting
  • Post-Harvest Operations
  • Logo Use (for businesses using the USDA GAP logo on their products)

Harmonized GAP Plus+ audits have mandatory questions that must be answered as compliant if applicable to the operation in order to pass the audit. Any questions answered as Corrective Action Needed will need to be addressed in order to pass the following year’s audit. The farm or business must answer at least 80% of applicable questions as compliant on each scope to pass the audit. All crops included in the audit are listed on the certificate.

We presented a session in 2021 on the structure of the Harmonized GAP audits and explained key concepts for audit success, including risk assessments & written risk management plans, trace back/trace forward exercises & mock recalls, water tests, and water system descriptions. This presentation is available in two formats:

As with the Harmonized GAP audits, several questions require the farm to meet ‘current industry practices’ or ‘prevailing regulations’. Prevailing regulations can refer to state environmental or pesticide laws, worker safety laws, or other regulations relevant to the operation and the location. Current industry practices refer to industry guidance for specific commodities. Industry guidance written in collaboration with the FDA for specific crops are available here:

The Harmonized GAP Plus+ checklist (Version February 8, 2021) used by auditors is publicly available, and can be used to perform your self-audit.

The Harmonized GAP Plus+ standard (Version February 8, 2021) is used by auditors to evaluate each question and gives much more of the requirements that must be met for each question. We strongly recommend using the Harmonized GAP standard as you prepare to make sure you meet all the requirements of each question.

Both the checklist and the standard for the Harmonized GAP Plus+ Audits were recently revised and released on February 16, 2021. The current materials will be used until April 30, 2021. The new materials will be used starting on May 1, 2021.

The current USDA Harmonized GAP standards and checklists remain in effect through April 30, 2021:

Effective May 1, 2021, the new standards and checklists will be used for USDA Harmonized GAP and GAP Plus+ audits. Here is summary of the changes to the standards:

The new USDA Harmonized GAP Plus+ standard and checklist were updated to align with updates to the Global Food Safety Initiative’s (GFSI) technical equivalency benchmarking requirements for government entities. This program is acknowledged as equivalent to GFSI Technical Equivalence Requirements. This audit option includes requirements previously covered by the Harmonized Global Markets Addendum.

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has more information on both Harmonized and Harmonized GAP Plus+ audits, including frequently asked questions about how these audits intersect with FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule, and the current funding support for Harmonized and Harmonized GAP Plus+ audits for farms and businesses in the Northeast.