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 Alaska Public Media. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for nearly 30 years. Radio brought her to Alaska, where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting before accepting a reporting/host position with APRN in 2003. APRN merged with Alaska Public Media a year later. 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. 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. 

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