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Health Department warns food establishments of phony inspector scam

APRIL 29--Public health officials are warning local food establishments of a scam involving a phone call from someone identifying himself as a food inspector. According to Scott Kendzierski, Director of Environmental Health for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, health officials elsewhere in the state have indicated that at least one such scam is being reported by a food establishment in their area, although there have not yet been any such reports in Northwest Michigan.

In that instance, the male caller claimed to be planning to inspect the food establishment, and gave an employee instructions to await an automated call. The food establishment employee then received text messages including a special code and a link to a Craig's List ad.

“We want to remind all food establishments in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties that the Health Department and your local food inspector will always contact you personally,” Kendzierski said. “Someone identifying himself or herself as a food inspector should be able to provide you with proper credentials. You will never be asked to respond to any automated calls or provide special access codes. If you receive a call like this, please let us know immediately.”

Kendzierski recommends asking for identification if someone stops by or calls claiming to be from the local Health Department, Department of Agriculture, or federal food agencies that you don't know. If the individual cannot provide proper identification or if you suspect that the ID may be invalid, do not allow the person access to your facility. Contact your food regulatory agency immediately and report it. He adds that food establishment employees should never provide sensitive or confidential information, such as a social security number, as food inspectors would not ask for that information.

“We work hard to develop excellent relationships with food service operators," Kendzierski explained. "We will be working closely with local law enforcement officials to address any concerns." Food service operators who have suspicions about the identity of an inspector, or who believe they are victims of a scam, should call Mike Jones, Environmental Health Supervisor, at (231) 547-7641.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties.