Federal inspectors said they want to get inside the Weekly Fig on Arlington Avenue to check out its process for handling meat and poultry, but has thus far been blocked.
The Department of Agriculture has now filed suit against the Weekly Fig, which describes itself as "a private membership association for local sustainable food." It delivers food to members throughout the Chattanooga area.
A government food inspector said in an affidavit that he learned about the Weekly Fig through an advertisement in early 2017. He said it is operated by Nate Wilson, Anju Wilson and Michele Reneau.
He said the firm operates as a limited liability corporation, but he said he checked with the state and found that its LLC had been terminated.
The inspector said he and a fellow inspector went to the Weekly Fig on April 18, 2017, and spoke with Ms. Reneau. He said she went inside to make a call. She returned with Nate Wilson.
He said they advised that the Weekly Fig facilitates the transfer of food from farms to consumers and handles meat and poultry.
But he said they told him that it is a private group that is exempt from state and federal regulation. He said Mr. Wilson stated they had no more right to enter the business than to go into his home.
Afterward, he said he exchanged correspondence for about a year with officials of the Weekly Fig.
He said a subpoena was issued to the Weekly Fig on June 7, 2018, demanding access to the firm's facilities and business records.
He said he and four other government officials showed up at the Weekly Fig on June 12, 2018. He said Kylie Turner, Weekly Fig's operations coordinator, declined them access. He said when they returned later that day that Ms. Reneau gave them "notice" about why they did not have the right to enter the property.
The inspector said a second subpoena was issued and he returned to the business on Nov. 7. He said no one answered a knock on the door, but someone raised a small curtain and said "No" loudly enough for him to hear.
He said it is the responsibility of his agency to inspect such operations to make sure that the handling of meat and poultry are safe for the public.