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Retail Food Establishments


Food has not been identified as a likely source of COVID-19, however it is always important to follow good practices to ensure proper food handling and safety.

Please note - The Tennessee Department of Agriculture oversees retail food stores to ensure food safety. TDA conducts inspections and responds to complaints related to food storage, facility sanitation, and food safety. There is no indication that COVID-19 can be spread via food or food packaging.

TDA has no regulatory authority over how a grocery or convenience store manages customer or employee capacity or actions.
We do encourage all businesses to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing and to regularly disinfect frequently-touched surfaces.

It is ultimately up to store management to determine how best to handle customer and employee capacity and actions. If you have concerns about activity in a particular store, we encourage you to contact store management.


More than 9,500 retail food establishments in Tennessee are inspected regularly based on their risk category:

  • Establishments with Temperature Controlled Foods or High Risk Firms are inspected twice each year.
  • Seasonal or Moderate Risk Firms are inspected once each year.
  • Low Risk Firms are inspected once every eighteen months.

These retail food firms are required to follow TDA's Retail Food Store Sanitation Rule 8808-04-09 and regulations relating to food storage, facility sanitation, and safety.

Retail food store inspection scores provide a general indication of compliance. Inspection reports describe sanitation conditions and associated health risk findings. Stores must make scores available when asked. A score below 70 requires a follow-up inspection.  

Inspection Scores

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture maintains retail food store inspection scores.

The Tennessee Department of Health maintains restaurant inspection scores.

For more information about TDA's retail food store inspection program, or to register a complaint about food store sanitation or food safety, call toll-free 800-628-2631.  

Compliance standards are related primarily to:

  • Demonstration of Knowledge of Person in Charge
  • Employee Health
  • Good Hygienic Practices
  • Prevention of Contamination by the Hands
  • Approved Suppliers and Sources
  • Receiving of Ingredients' Conditions
  • Protection from Food Contamination
  • Proper Cooking Time and Temperatures
  • Compliance with Processes / Food Safety Plan
  • Proper Labeling
  • Safety of Food Practices and Water Sources
  • Proper Use and Handling of Utensils
  • Sanitation of Utensils, Equipment and Non-Food Contact Surfaces
  • Physical Facility
    • Hot and Cold Water
    • Plumbing and Sewage
    • Ventilation and Lighting
    • Garbage and Refuse