Portsmouth City Health Commissioner Peggy Burton is echoing a call by the Ohio Department of Health that restaurant and grocery store operators make sure they get official identification from anyone purporting to be health inspectors. Ted Wymyslo, M.D., director of the ODH, says that over the last few weeks, the ODH Food Safety Program has received numerous phone calls from local health departments and restaurants across the state indicating that people claiming to be state health inspectors are contacting food service operators throughout Ohio. In some instances, these individuals request to schedule an inspection of the food service operation. In other instances, individuals have entered establishments trying to collect business and personal information. "I want to remind Ohio's restaurants and food service establishments not to give out any personal, private or secure information to anyone without first confirming the person's identity," Wymyslo said. "Employees from the ODH Food Safety program will never come into an establishment alone to conduct an inspection. They will always be with local inspectors." Wymyslo said ODH food safety staff will never ask food service operators for credit card, personal or financial information. Burton said there is a procedure food service operators should follow before allowing anyone to inspect their facilities. "They should ask to see his I.D.," Burton said. "And inspectors from the local health departments have identification cards and badges that they wear. Or they could call the local health department to verify if they have an inspector by that name, that description and are they scheduled there that day. Then the health department could verify that." Burton said there are several reasons people would attempt to impersonate an health inspector. "Sometimes restaurants have recipe secrets that could be the object of industrial espionage or something that people may want so that they can duplicate it," Burton said. "Something else that comes to mind nowadays with all the bio-terrorism tainted food with serious toxins could be an avenue for such thing to happen." In Ohio, local health departments license and inspect food service establishments. Local inspectors typically will not schedule any inspections in advance or call to request inspection. Wymyslo said food service operators with questions about the inspection process should contact the Portsmouth Health Department at (740) 353-5153, ext. 221, or the Scioto County Health Department at (740) 354-3241.
FRANK LEWIS may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232, or firstname.lastname@example.org.