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 and senior host for Alaska Public Media. You can send her program ideas for Talk of Alaska and Alaska Insight at ltownsend@alaskapublic.org or call 907-350-2058.

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