Managing crop production for food safety and quality: the role of good agricultural practice
The production of primary plant products as food and feed raw materials is an integral part of the supply chain. Food and feed safety and the impact of production activities are of concern to consumers, industry and governments. Compliance with the demands and expectations of the marketplace and meeting legal requirements is a key consideration for producers and suppliers of primary agricultural products. Good agricultural practice (GAP) provides a framework for current and future food and feed production and helps meet the challenge of producing more from increasingly finite resources. GAP as exemplified by private voluntary standards is also becoming a key feature of governance in the food supply chain. Meeting accepted good practice therefore is the key to successful and sustainable production and marketing of primary products. Compliance with accepted practices is the prerequisite to market access and customer and consumer confidence.
GAP is a completely integrated approach that links food safety with environmental and social welfare and encompasses best production practices that take into account customer and consumer demands and expectations and the sensitive use of increasingly scarce natural resources.
This white paper, written in conjunction with CABI, gives more information on good agricultural practice (GAP) and the private voluntary standards that underpin GAP and increasingly are an important aspect of governance in the supply chain.
Food (and feed) safety management and control of hazards significant to health in crop production is a key aspect of sound agricultural production practice. Safety encompasses issues around hygiene, pesticide use and natural contaminants, including for example mycotoxins and heavy metals. The customer and consumer expect that producers should take the necessary steps to ensure that their food is safe. Failure to apply the highest food safety standards can have a severe impact on confidence, which can spread to the whole of the supply chain, even in product sectors or countries not associated with the failures. For example, the E coli outbreak in Germany in 2011 on sprouted seeds where 1200 cases of illness were reported led to import bans of products from the EU by a number of countries and had consequential effects on related salad products with associated loss of sales. A reputation for safe and healthy products is hard won but can all too easily be lost and can take considerable time and effort to recover.
Such examples serve to underline the need for greater transparency in the supply chain and the implementation of good agricultural practice (best practice) at primary production level. In addition to actual food safety, the concept of quality has also been redefined in recent years to encompass both traditional product characteristics and intrinsic quality attributes that relate to the way the product is produced, including environmental and social welfare issues. Issues that relate to the way a product is produced and its impact on the environment are increasingly seen as an important marketing attribute as well as a prerequisite for sustainable and equitable production. Environmental welfare issues are likely to become even more important in all agricultural production as we move forward to 2050 and the predicted scarcity of natural resources, such as water, soil, energy and biodiversity, coupled with a predicted 9 billion consumers.
The impact of food production activities (and the failure of such activities on food safety and the environment) in the supply chain has become of increasing concern to governments, the food industry and consumers, and failures in the food chain are very quickly and widely exposed through traditional media, social media and other consumer networks. One manifestation of this has been a greater emphasis on the management of food safety and intrinsic quality attributes as specified in guidelines, codes of practice and technical standards.