Who is Responsible for Regulating Food Safety in Tennessee?

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture, or TDA, is responsible for regulating and enforcing food safety pertaining to food processing, handling, storage, and sale in Tennessee. The TDA also inspects food warehouses, bottled water, wineries and food manufacturers. The TDA regulates all equipment used for food service, including something as simple as a wooden mixing spoon and as complicated as a custom fabrication tank and everything in between. Foods prepared by both distribution and retailers fall under the responsibility of both the TDA and the local health department.

In addition to passing TDA regulation, if your product is sold across state lines, it becomes subject to regulations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. This means your product must have proper labeling and pass certain ingredient, preparation, and handling requirements.

If you manufacture or process food, you’ve met the TDA Regulatory Services Division, as they must inspect your premises and issue you a copy of the approved “Inspection Report” before you are authorized to begin operations. The TDA also issues permits for retail food stores, including grocery stores and restaurants located in those stores. Restaurants that stand alone are not covered by the TDA: the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) covers them. The TDA covers establishments that offer food and food products at both the retail and wholesale level, meaning two different bakeries can be covered by two different organizations if one of the bakeries only sells for retail (The TDH handles them) and the other sells both retail and wholesale.