The situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) is evolving rapidly. This webpage will continue to be updated regularly as changes to the situation warrant.
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Certification Bodies (CBs) are proceeding with CanadaGAP audits wherever possible.
A full on-site audit continues to be the first choice for CanadaGAP certification during the 2020 season.
Other options at the discretion of the Certification Body:
- Certificate extension: In accordance with GFSI requirements, based on a risk assessment, Certification Bodies may be able to extend your certificate for up to six months under extraordinary circumstances. CanadaGAP Certification Bodies will be contacting program participants in the event that the auditor cannot proceed with planned audits at your operation, and will provide information about certificate extensions.
- Partly remote audit: Where warranted, an audit that is partly remote gives the Certification Body an alternative approach during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Effective July 1 for the 2020 crop season, at the discretion of the Certification Body CanadaGAP audits may be performed partly using remote auditing methods. In certain cases and in accordance with rules set out by CanadaGAP, part of an operation’s 2020 audit would be done on-site, while the second part may be completed using remote methods. This approach was developed in response to challenges presented by this year’s extraordinary circumstances.
Some audits may be postponed due to continued limitation on travel or concerns about exposure to potentially infected individuals. If your certificate is due to expire soon, your Certification Body will be in contact with you. If it is not possible to proceed with an audit, your CB will discuss extending your certificate and rescheduling your audit. For newly enrolled program participants, the CB will endeavour to proceed with your audit to ensure that you can meet your customer requirements; please check with your selected Certification Body.
If you have questions about your certificate or about audits that were planned for the near future, we encourage you to contact your Certification Body for more information.
→ Expectations for CanadaGAP Audits
CanadaGAP has received questions around whether there will be leniency in auditor interpretation of the CanadaGAP requirements due to challenges that program participants are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, producers are facing challenges with obtaining hand hygiene materials, hand washing stations, portable toilets, cleaning materials, equipment parts, technical expertise for calibration, etc. These shortages are on top of serious challenges for farmers working to maintain worker safety and access to labour, capital and other resources needed to keep their businesses operating through the 2020 growing season.
We understand the serious challenges the industry is facing and our best wishes are with our valued growers, packers and wholesalers. However, the requirements for CanadaGAP-certified operations to maintain food safety continue to apply despite the unusual circumstances. We are clarifying that the usual practices to manage food safety will be expected for CanadaGAP audits this season.
There are many resources being published right now by governments at all levels, industry associations, etc. to help food producers manage the spread of COVID-19. Many of these address topics like hand hygiene, cleaning frequency, etc. We want to avoid any confusion around which requirements to follow. We wish to emphasize that the CanadaGAP audit is based on CanadaGAP requirements. Please contact the CanadaGAP office if you have further questions.
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), to which the CanadaGAP program is benchmarked, has communicated that based on risk assessment, Certification Bodies may be able to extend certificates for up to six months under extraordinary circumstances. If you have concerns about the timing of your certificate expiry, we encourage you to contact your certification body.
At this point, Certification Bodies are still expected to proceed with an audit during the extension period. In addition, monitoring and surveillance activities (e.g., regular communication, desktop review of records, phone interviews, etc.) may be required for CBs to ensure ongoing compliance with food safety requirements within the certified operation.
Food Safety Impact
We have received questions about the safety of food products. To date there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmissible via food (i.e., it does NOT appear to be a foodborne illness). Following are some links containing helpful information about transmission routes:
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA): Coronavirus (COVID-19): information for consumers about food safety
- Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC):
- Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC): Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – Information for industry
- Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA): COVID-19 Updates – Food Safety
- World Health Organization (WHO): How COVID-19 is spread (See FAQ near the bottom: “How to grocery shop safely?”)
- European Food Safety Authority (EFSA): Coronavirus: no evidence that food is a source or transmission route
- U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Food and COVID-19
- U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
- New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre: COVID-19 Information for Food Industry
- North Carolina State Extension: SARS-CoV-2 Virus Transmission
We will keep you informed if further scientific information comes to light.
Impact on Supply of Food Safety-Related Items and Services
The Government of Canada has compiled the following resource to assist Organizations buying and selling personal protective equipment during COVID-19.
Provincial programs and tools to source personal protective equipment (PPE)
Efforts are underway to ensure the agriculture and agri-food sector has appropriate support in sourcing supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for both normal occupational health and safety purposes as well as to mitigate COVID-19 transmission. To this end, some provinces have announced programs and other tools to assist private sector procurement. While these are not specifically targeted to the agriculture sector, they can be a useful resource to the sector in accessing required PPE. The information attached is sourced from provincial websites and is being shared for your information and use.
Public Safety Canada has conducted several surveys regarding industry’s needs for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
- a PPE Needs Assessment Survey to collect information from industry between March 31 and April 17, 2020
- a second PPE and Sanitization Products Inventory Survey to capture more in depth data with respect to supply and demand from April 27 until May 4, 2020.
The federal government has been making it a priority to understand and meet the needs of the critical infrastructure sectors (health care, food, transportation, energy, etc.) for PPE. It is paramount that industry continue to communicate with authorities if you are experiencing shortages in PPE (gloves, masks, smocks, filters, etc.), hand sanitizer and wipes, cleaning and sanitizing materials, portable toilets and hand washing stations, etc.
Please keep checking our website for updates; further government requests for information from industry will be posted here.
We have received inquiries about a shortage of hand sanitizer. Officials have been making efforts to source additional supplies and to communicate with the public that there is no need for panic or for hoarding of supplies. A number of public and private sector organizations have been canvassing businesses about their needs and are working to coordinate availability of required supplies. The situation is expected to ease over the coming weeks; please be patient.
If you are experiencing an immediate issue with lack of supplies and need guidance on alternatives (for example, guidance on making your own hand sanitizer), please follow expert recommendations and retain the instructions to show your auditor. Examples include:
Online options for obtaining agricultural chemical applicators licences/formal training are listed below by province. Please select the applicable area to see your options if attending courses in person is not possible at this time.
Factsheets and Printable Resources
- FDA: Use of Respirators, Facemasks, and Cloth Face Coverings in the Food and Agriculture Sector During Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS): Coronavirus (COVID-19 Tips) – Agriculture
- CDC Communication Resources
- Ohio State University: COVID-19 FAQ for U-pick Farms
- Produce Marketing Association: COVID-19 Resources and Updates – scroll down to ‘Most Requested Resources’ to access the following:
- →Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 among Field Workers – English and Spanish
- →Managers Checklist of Best Practices for Field and Ag Labor
- →Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in Food Facilities – English and Spanish
- →Housing Safety Guide for Workers – English and Spanish
- New Zealand Apples and Pears: Coronavirus – COVID-19 – Social distancing and transport options
Stay safe and stay healthy
In these uncertain times, we understand that there are many challenges facing everyone in the industry: program participants, retailers, manufacturers and distributors, auditors and certification bodies, and your families. As always, we are here to help with any questions or concerns.
A reminder that to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is recommended that individuals use physical distancing, maintaining approximately 6 feet from others when possible. In food and agriculture operations, an evaluation should be made to identify and implement operational changes that increase employee separation. The risk of an employee transmitting COVID-19 to another is dependent on distance between employees, the duration of the exposure, and the effectiveness of employee hygiene practices and sanitation. Operations should be vigilant in their hygiene practices, including frequent and proper hand-washing and routine cleaning of all surfaces.
Please follow the advice of your local public health authorities to practice social distancing with suppliers, employees, vehicle drivers, customers and anyone else who may frequent your operation.
Guidance for Certification Bodies
|1.||March 30, 2020||CanadaGAP Audits Impacted by COVID-19: Guidance for Certification Bodies|
|2.||April 8, 2020||Update on GFSI position|
|3.||June 11, 2020||GFSI & COVID-19: Letter from GFSI Leadership|
|4.||June 22, 2020||CanadaGAP Technical Procedure (TP-09-RM): Use of Remote Auditing Methods during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Summary: This document provides Certification Bodies with specific guidelines and procedures to apply remote methods to CanadaGAP auditing should they choose to do so. This alternative to a full on-site audit has two (possibly three) components, as follows:
For more information, please review the detailed technical procedure above.