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2015 Tennessee Retail Food Safety Act Summary of Key Changes

In 2013, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Tennessee Retail Food Safety Act, giving operators two years to implement the changes. On Thursday, July 16, 2015 the new act goes into effect and the 2009 FDA Food Code will be in effect in Tennessee. This document summarizes the key changes and provides important information about the Act for restaurants and foodservice operators in the state of Tennessee.

When does the new Retail Food Safety Act become effective?
The new Retail Food Safety Act will become effective in Tennessee on July 16, 2015.

What types of establishments does the new Retail Food Safety Act affect?
The new Food Safety Act applies to all retail food establishments in the state of Tennessee that are regulated by either the Tennessee Department of Health or the Tennessee Department of Agriculture such as restaurants, delicatessens, snack bars, catering operations, ice cream parlors, school cafeterias, licensed healthcare facilities, temporary food establishments, grocery stores, convenience stores, retail meat markets, fish/seafood markets, retail ice merchants, shared-use operations, and mobile food establishments.

What are the new Tennessee Food Code requirements?

The 2009 FDA Food Code contains several significant changes affecting retail food operators in the state of Tennessee including the following:

New Violation Designations

Priority violations include items such as

  • Cooking
  • Reheating
  • Cooling
  • Hand-washing

Priority Foundation violations include items such as

  • Personnel Training
  • Documentation
  • Record Keeping
  • Labeling

Core violations include items such as

  • General Sanitation
  • Operational Controls
  • Standard Operating Procedures
  • General Maintenance
  • New Key Definitions - Potentially hazardous foods are now called Time/Temperature Control for Safety Food (TCS). The definition of TCS food now includes raw or heat treated animal food, heat treated plant food, raw seed sprouts, cut melons, cut leafy greens, cut tomatoes or mixtures of cut tomatoes, and garlic-in-oil mixtures.

  • No “Bare Hand Contact” with Ready-to-Eat Foods - Food handlers will no longer be allowed to touch Ready-To-Eat (RTE) food with their bare hands. The proper use of tongs, scoops, deli paper, and single service gloves are required to handle food which will not be cooked, or cooked again prior to serving. A variance from no bare hand contact may be granted under certain circumstances to establishments that do not serve highly susceptible populations.

  • Time as a Public Health Control (TPHC) - Time as a public health control (TPHC) instead of temperature control may be used in Tennessee. However, the Food Code outlines specific conditions that must be met prior to implementing TPHC in a food establishment in the state.

  • New Holding Temperatures - Cold foods must be held at a temperature of 41° F or below. Hot foods must be held at a temperature of 135° F or above.

  • Date Marking - Ready-To-Eat TCS foods are required to be date marked once prepared or opened if held for more than 24 hours. The date marked food must be used, sold or discarded within 7 days when held at 41° F or below.

  • Person in Charge (PIC) - A Person in Charge (PIC) must be designated during all hours of food service operation and the PIC must be able to demonstrate knowledge of food safety.

  • Demonstration of Knowledge - The Person in Charge (PIC) in a retail food establishment must be able to demonstrate knowledge of foodborne disease prevention. Knowledge can be demonstrated through certification in food protection, having no priority or priority foundation violations in the establishment or by correctly answering food safety questions posed by an inspector.

  • Employee Health Policy - Management must have a policy in place for employee health that requires employees to report certain symptoms and diagnoses to the PIC. Management must exclude or restrict ill employees based on their symptoms or diagnosis.

  • Risk-Based Inspections - Retail food establishments in Tennessee were previously inspected twice annually. Based on the Food Code concept of risk-based inspections, food establishments will now be inspected one (1) to four (4) times annually. Low-risk establishments will be inspected only once or twice a year while high-risk establishments will be inspected three (3) to four (4) times per year.

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