Scam targets restaurants in Barry County

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Barry County food establishment owners and managers should be aware of a new scam asking them to purchase special handwashing signs from a private company.

"It has come to our attention, here at the Barry County Health Department, that a scam has been taking place in our county," said Don Pierpont, Barry County environmental public health specialist.

"A company by the name of Missouri Food Service Compliance Center has been sending letters to our food establishments, informing them that they will be fined up to $2,500 if they do not purchase signage and have it posted in their establishment," said Pierpont.

According to the letters that have been distributed across the state by Missouri Food Service Compliance Center, a new state and federal law has taken effect requiring restaurants to post handwashing signs at all sinks.

The letters, which often contain threatening language, state that there are severe consequences for failure to comply with the new requirement.

The letter quotes a non-existent portion of the Food and Drug Administration food code, which says that violators could face fines and up to one year in prison for each day a violation occurs. It also states that investigators will be making routine restaurant inspections to check for sign compliance.

Although the Missouri Food Code does require signs or posters be placed at all handwashing lavatories to remind food service employees to wash their hands, establishments are not required to purchase signs through any company.

The Missouri Food Service Compliance Center letters incorrectly state that restaurant owners cannot make their own signs to place at handwashing sinks.

"The Missouri Food Service Compliance Center is not a governmental agency, has no regulatory authority and appears to be using intimidation tactics to sell a product," stated a press release from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Food establishment handwashing signs are available at the Barry County Health Department at no charge.

For more information, call Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services representatives Mary Fandrey at 573-751-6095 or Bryan Haugen at 417-895-6932. Restaurant owners can also contact Pierpont at 847-2114.

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