GACP OVERVIEW

Good Agriculture and Collection Practices

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Good Agriculture and Collection Practices (GACP): Safety, Quality Assurance and Traceability for the Canadian Herb, Spice, Specialty Ag, Natural Health Products Industry, Wild Collected products and Hemp.

For wild harvesters and farmers alike, day-to-day busyness (i.e., getting the work done) is usually what fills each day. Even though producing a high quality, safe product is their top priority, making sure they can prove they have done so is not always that easy.   This does not mean they are not doing a good job, but it is hard to show others the evidence of their good work.  GACPs are a tool that can help.


"Our company has recently been faced with a dramatic shift in the regulatory landscape of the specialty agriculture and food additive industry.  As we do business in various countries, the demands for compliance in the area of food safety has been varied and complex.  In order to address new demands, we looked into various training and compliance programs.  Most required a significant level of expertise and financial investment to obtain a basic level of compliance.  Training courses were often spread across the country and continent, and did not have any specific structure or guidance towards our specialized industry.

The GACP program developed and administered by the CHSNC has been the solution we needed.  The combination of locally available training and expertise has allowed our company to quickly get up to speed with the demands of the new regulatory environment.  Our entire staff was trained on-site, and by a trainer who understood our industry, and was able to ensure the program was administered in a relevant and useful way.  The complexity of the new food safety laws in various jurisdictions has been simplified into a program that meet’s both the requirements of our customers and of our own internal needs.  The GACP is an absolute necessity for Western Canadian agriculture."


ChiliWhat exactly are GACPs?
GACPs are voluntary practices developed by industry, for industry, as a tool to help you grow, collect, handle, and (or) process a variety of botanical products sustainably, ethically and safely.   For many if not most wild harvestors and growers,  sustainability, following ethical and environmental practices and safety already form a good foundation for  their day to day practices.  But,,,,   can they prove they do it?  Can they separate themselves and distinguish their products  from those that do not practice  the same due diligence?   Can they keep small problems small?

GACPs were developed, trialed and tested by those in the industry.  Pilots were done across the country with those actually wild collecting and farming.  A combination of funding from varied Agriculture Canada programs over a number of years plus thousands of industry hours went into their development.  The final piece to this puzzle involved the Canadian Food Inspection Agency ensuring that the system that was developed is technically sound.
Food SafetySo are they truly voluntary?
The short answer yes.  This is a tool to be used where and when needed.  It is not regulation.  Will there be cases where you may have to use it - yes.  Companies like Loblaws insist that the products they sell are ‘wrapped in the security blanket of food safety.  If you want to sell to them, your  choices are to a)   use their program that they developed knowing little about your industry or b) use the GACPs that were developed by your industry.  Their program may be very good for manufacturing plants but not very practical to use in the field.

Most manufacturers/wholesalers will insist that GACPs are in place for the raw materials they purchase.  Growers/collectors who provide raw materials for the manufacturing industry therefore play a fundamental role in ensuring safety, quality and traceability (where did the material come from and could it have been damaged, spoiled or contaminated en route?).
Meadow RueWhy are they needed?
The majority of safety, quality and traceability issues that arise from raw materials are due to a  failure to ensure correct identity and/or  ensure product purity. For plants and plant products, ,botanical identity’ includes ensuring the correct species, correct variety or chemotype, correct plant part and correct processing. In other words, correct identity alone is not enough. Growers/collectors must ensure the raw material is not contaminated with other toxic botanicals. (e.g. burdock, comfrey, or nettle contaminated with Atropa belladonna - deadly nightshade; plantain contaminated with foxglove). Growers/collectors must also ensure the purity of raw materials. Product purity can be at risk from contamination with micro-organisms, heavy metals, pesticide residues, environmental toxins and adulterants.

 The GACPs  are based on Hazard Assessment Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles. HACCP forms  the foundation of food safety programs around the world.  GACPs are really about ‘saying what you do’, ‘doing what you say you do’ and ‘verifying that you did what you said you were going to do’. Although GACPs do require the development of consistent ways of doing things for your farm or wild collection venture, and yes, this does include formal record keeping, the real benefits for growers/collectors are traceability and safety assurances. Should a manufactured product be recalled, GACPs provide growers/collectors with a recognized method of verifying whether or not their raw materials were part of the problem.

Putting GACPs into practice
Although many growers/collectors are using GACPs, not everyone has formalized their system and records. The CHSNC Growers GACP Workbook will make it fairly simple to formalize a plan for individual operations to ensure food safety, and keep records for verification. For certified organic growers/collectors, many of the records required will already be in place, however, they will still have to develop GACPs to ensure food safety within their operation. A certified organic system doesn’t necessarily have all of the GACPs in place (example Plant Identification).

THE GOOD AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES WORKBOOK INCLUDES:
— 1. Plant/Product identification
(available now at: www.saskherbspice.org)

— 2. Pest Control Products
Your use or your neighour's use what effect is it having on your products

— 3. Purchasing

What do you use day to day in your operation?... is it adding risk?

— 4. Production
Where are you harvesting or collecting?;  What do your production methods include? ...are you adding risk?

— 5. Post harvest processing
What happens to your product after you harvest it?; Where are the products stored? ; What are they stored in? ... are you adding risk?

— 6. Personnel training
Does everyone understand what you want them to do ? ... are they adding risk? Do you know how to teach your staff or family?

— 7. Preventative maintenance
Are you able to clean your tools and equipment to the point that it is not adding risk to your product

— 8. Record Keeping
Can you prove that you have done any of the above?


Can you keep small problems small?
Growers/collectors who participate in the voluntary CHSNC HACCP based Good Agriculture and Collection Practices Program will benefit greatly by reducing risks on their operations, ensuring food safety and improving traceability throughout the entire value chain. Many buyers are already asking to purchase raw materials produced under a GACP system. Where problems arise, growers/collectors who have a GACP system in place will be in a better position to prove the safety and quality of their products. As raw material suppliers, growers/collectors play a key role and are the foundation of safe, ethically collected quality products. 

HerbsIn summary
These GACPs will ensure a strong value chain of traceability and safety tightly linked with the existing processing good manufacturing practices in both the culinary and medicinal worlds. There is a large gap between production/collection and manufactured products across Canada and around the world. Developing Good Agriculture/Collection Practices that connect with Good Manufacturing Practices up the chain strengthens the chain, boosts consumer confidence and develops strong business relationships.  We want Canada to be the country of choice for raw materials such as fiddleheads and mushrooms.  This tool can make that happen.

Brand Canada the country of choice for safe, ethically collected quality products.
 
CHSNC will be holding training and information workshops for growers/collectors across Canada.

For more information or updates to the program, contact: Connie Kehler, CHSNC Executive Director and CHSNC OFFS Technical Committee Lead at: shsa@sasktelsasktel.net

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