The GAP certification is an important protection for consumers shopping for food for themselves or their pets. This program ensures ethical, sustainable, and safe food practices are used on the farms and in the manufacturing facilities that supply ingredients for the foods we eat. Through the GAP certification program, farmers and manufacturers or distributors can request a food safety audit to check their practices and ensure they do all they can to handle food safely.
Pet owners should be aware of the GAP certification program because it is one of the ways a company can provide consumers with another layer of assurance. When you opt for GAP-certified pet food, it reaffirms that you are making a safe and beneficial choice for you, your pets, and your community.
In this article, we'll cover what a GAP certification is and why it's needed. We'll also dive into the details of the process to give you a solid understanding of what's involved.
Looking for GAP-certified pet foods? Check out The Honest Kitchen’s GAP-certified recipes.
What Is a GAP (Global Animal Partnership) Certification )?
The GAP certification process is a program that ensures high-quality food comes from farms. It also helps ensure that the food produced on farms is handled properly in the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution phases.
Agricultural companies that sell fruits and vegetables can voluntarily get an audit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prove that they use safe production, packaging, handling, and storage techniques to reduce microbial contamination and other food safety issues. If they pass the USDA GAP audit process, a company shows that it does what is necessary to protect its end product from unwanted contamination.
For a company to carry GAP certification, it must follow the recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as outlined in the Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.
GAP certification can also apply to animal-based products, such as meat. This is through the Global Animal Partnership, which promotes food safety training and proper handling, as well as ethical and safe treatment of animals on the farm.
Why Do You Need a GAP Certification?
When a grower or manufacturer practices Good Agricultural Practices, they help improve responsible farming methods on their site. GAP certification shows consumers that the grower or supplier has embraced these practices. When a pet food brand carries GAP certification — like The Honest Kitchen does — it helps the grower and the community in several ways, including:
1) Reduces the Risk of Foodborne Illness
Foodborne illnesses from fresh produce are becoming increasingly common. Since traceability through the supply chain has improved significantly, produce recalls are becoming more widespread.
When a grower is GAP-certified, it means they’ve taken steps to decrease the risks of microbial food safety hazards throughout the growing process. Reducing this risk is one of the primary goals of the GAP program.
When growers and manufacturers practice good handling practices and growing practices, the risk of extensive illness drops. This, in turn, drops the risk of a costly recall.
2) Improves the Sustainability of Crop Production
Part of the GAP certification process focuses on sustainable on-farm and post-production processes. This starts with responsible farming methods from growers to help keep the land viable and produce quality high. A GAP audit can help companies find areas where they are operating with less efficiency.
3) Maximizes Yields and Reduces Production costs
For an agricultural business to be profitable, it must produce a high yield and distribute or sell that yield in an affordable way. Good agricultural practices are about more than just reducing the risk of illness; they also encourage more production while lowering the cost of production. This benefit helps put more money in the pocket of hard-working farmers.
4) Improves Economic Outcomes
Consumers enjoy the peace of mind that comes with buying GAP-certified, which means that these products will likely sell better — and more sales means more revenue for farms and other agricultural businesses. GAP certification also reduces the economic risk associated with recalls and contaminated foods that cannot be sold.
These negative economic effects impact not only the farming community, but also the shipping community and the retailers who sell food products, so the negative impacts are far-reaching. In contrast, when growers are GAP certified, that risk lowers, and the trickle-down effect on the larger economy also sees a positive impact.
What Is the GAP Certification Process?
GAP certification applies to any company that handles food. This means it is not just for human food, but also for pet food. Any manufacturer or grower who grows fresh produce can apply for certification. The process is not too complicated, but it can be time-consuming. For a company to get GAP certified, it must complete the following steps:
Step 1: Determine Which Audit You Need
First, you need to determine the type of audit you need for your particular facility or organization. The options include:
- Produce Harmonized Gap Audit: This audit is for specialty crops. It includes rules for field operations and food safety standards.
- GAP and GHP Audit: This voluntary audit comes from the USDA and ensures that the producer follows USDA Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices.
- GroupGAP: This food safety program applies to the entire specialty crops industry, not just the growers. It allows farmers, food hubs, and marketing organizations to apply for GAP certification as a group rather than as individual entities.
- Mushroom GAP: A specific GAP audit for the mushroom production industry.
- California LGMA: A program only for growers and food distributors in California.
- Arizona LGMA: A program only for growers and food distributors in Arizona.
Step 2: Request the Audit
Once you know which audit you need, download Form SC-237A and fill it out. This is the official application for the audit. Send it to the office closest to the facility you want to have audited via email or fax.
Step 3: Prepare for the Audit
Before the audit, a company can take steps to better its chances of getting a passing score. Some of these include:
- Proper storage and use of manure
- Water testing
- Covers for breakable lights and other glass
- Rodent control programming
- Sanitation stations and designated eating stations
- Logbook of regularly performed, safety-related tasks
- Harvest containers and packing materials that meet all current safety standards
- Lids for trash cans
- Fencing to keep wildlife from accessing the growing area
Many of these preparations are long-term considerations that will — or should — be in place well before scheduling the audit. However, once the audit is scheduled, it's worthwhile to run through these measures again to ensure compliance.
Step 4: Schedule the Audit
Once the office receives your application, they will call you to schedule the audit. At that point, they'll also provide more information about what the audit entails and the procedures of the program. Then you will complete Participating in Audit Services Form SC-651 and give it to the auditor at the time of your audit.
Step 5: Make Changes Based on the Audit
If the audit finds that your organization breaks some produce safety rules or safe food handling regulations, take steps to change these areas. Once you implement the changes, you may need to request another audit to ensure that the changes bring your facility up to standard.
If you pass the audit, congratulations! You are now part of the USDA GAP/GHP Audit Verification Program list.
Keep in mind that you may get a surprise audit at some point after you receive your certification. This surprise inspection is designed to ensure that your business continues to follow the safe practices necessary for certification. Certification remains valid for one year, so you will need to recertify each year using the same process.
The Honest Kitchen Is GAP Certified
Because The Honest Kitchen uses human grade ingredients in our pet foods, it made sense to pursue GAP certification for our human grade pet food products. These foods give pet owners peace of mind that they are giving their pets the absolute best, with limited risk and a high level of sustainability.
In our research, we found that 92% of pet parents want to know more about how their pets' food is sourced. GAP certification allows us to use responsibly sourced ingredients from companies that follow good food safety practices so that you can feed your pet the best possible food.
The Honest Kitchen has the Farm Animal Welfare Certification from the Global Animal Partnership. This GAP certification is one of the latest animal welfare food labeling programs in North America, and is similar to the GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification for produce that comes from the USDA, but it applies to meat-based products instead of fruits and vegetables. Because the two use the same acronym, it can get a bit confusing, but the bottom line is that our products are certified as safe for human consumption.
Currently, The Honest Kitchen has four products in our GAP-certified line, including:
- Dehydrated Grain Free Chicken for Dogs
- Dehydrated Whole Grain Chicken for Dogs
- Dehydrated Limited Ingredient Chicken for Dogs
- Chicken and Cranberry Parmesan Pecks Dog Treats
When you purchase one of these foods from The Honest Kitchen, you can be confident that our food safety plan ensures your pet is getting the best possible food with the highest-quality ingredients.
Try The Honest Kitchen’s GAP Certified Recipes
The Honest Kitchen is passionate about helping farmers support sustainable and ethical growing practices for both produce and farm animals. GAP certification helps produce better quality ingredients for human and pet food products. It also embraces sustainability while supporting the local economy.
Shop The Honest Kitchen's line of GAP-certified foods today.