(March 24, 5:05 p.m.) The Ottawa-based Canadian Horticultural Council certified its first farm under its new CanadaGAP on-farm food safety standards.

Redcliff, Alberta-based Red Hat Cooperative Ltd. was the first farm to complete the program since it was launched in September.

Heather Gale, food safety coordinator for the Canadian Horticultural Council, said there are eight commodity-specific modules in the program:

  • asparagus, sweet corn and legumes;

  • bulb and root vegetables;

  • greenhouse production;

  • leafy vegetables and cruciferae;

  • potatoes;

  • small fruit; and

  • tree and vine fruit.

The program is open to producers, packers and storage intermediaries and is designed to help implement food safety procedures. To date, more than 250 producers have enrolled in the program.

“Most, if not all grower-packers in the program are being certified in response to a request from their customers,” Gale said.

It takes about six to eight weeks for an organization to be certified under the program.

Gale said the average cost is between $665 and $1,300 (Canadian) per year, depending on the size of the company, where the facility is located and other variables.

The program has three certification options:

  • The least expensive option includes a four-year audit cycle that meets government requirements for on-site food safety recognition and is subject to random audits.

  • A group certification that is based on GlobalGAP combines group and individual costs.

  • The most expensive is a benchmarking option that includes an annual on-farm visit designed to meet international requirements, such as Safe Quality Food.

The audits are performed by a third party firm that works for the certification bodies accredited to issue CanadaGAP certificates.

“At present, we have one such certification body — QMI-SAI Global Assurances Ltd., (based in Toronto)” Gale said. “Other certification bodies have expressed interest in offering audit and certification services for our program, and we are exploring opportunities to expand the list.”