Officials Issue Warning on Fraudulent Food Inspectors

Officials with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s food safety program are warning restaurant and processor owner/operators about fraudulent food inspectors. Jim Moore is an environmental health officer with DEC. He says he’s heard from three food establishment owners in the Bethel area who had been contacted about an inspection. Moore says the caller says they need to schedule an inspection and the proprietor will have to pay an up-front fee for the inspection. He says owners have been wary.

Moore says in addition to the three he’s heard reports of, other inspectors have also taken reports of attempts at fraudulent inspections. He says generally, inspectors do make a courtesy call to establishments to ensure that the proper staff will be on hand. But he says it’s not possible to call everyone. The permits are paid on an annual basis in November unless they’re for seasonal activity. He says the only time inspectors would collect money is when there’s been a violation and they plan a trip to the facility.

Moore urges restaurant and food processor owners to ask questions when they get calls regarding inspections. He says get as much information as possible, especially return phone numbers. He says impersonating a public servant of the state is punishable by state law and DEC has an environmental Crimes Unit to go after fraudulent inspectors.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori