Attorney General David W. Márquez Issues Cease and Desist Order to Company Soliciting Phony Food Service Posters
September 7, 2006
(Anchorage) - Attorney General David W. Márquez issued a warning today to Alaska food service establishments asking them to beware of a letter notifying them of "new health codes" and requiring them to purchase hand washing posters. On September 5th the Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit issued a cease and desist order to Alaska Food Service Compliance Center (AFSCC) to prohibit this organization from soliciting hand washing posters to Alaska food service establishments.
"AFSCC is distributing letters to food service businesses urging them to purchase and post hand washing posters," said Márquez. "The content of the letters is deceptive and, among other things, references model federal food code provisions that have no application in Alaska."
Similar scams are circulating across the country. Neither Alaska nor the federal government has implemented any new hand washing posting requirement. Restaurant and food service establishments do not have to post a certain type of poster. The law does require that notices be posted reminding employees to wash their hands before handling food. Food service establishments are free to use posters that they have created or free stickers that may be obtained through the Department of Environmental Conservation's Food Safety and Sanitation Program or the Municipality of Anchorage's Food Safety and Sanitation Program.
The AFSCC letter claims that "Any Food Service Establishment found to be in violation of State or Federal law by willfully failing to post approved hand washing posters may be subject to fines up to $2,500 and suspension or revocation of license." AFSCC promotes "Approved Hand Washing Posters" for $19.95 plus shipping and handling and encourages businesses to achieve compliance by ordering the "approved" posters.
In addition to factual inaccuracies the AFSCC letter violates Alaska's Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive acts, misrepresentation and representations that its posters have state or federal approval. The September 5th Cease and Desist order prohibits letter solicitations of Alaska businesses.
An example of the AFSCC letter and links to information on the Alaska Food Code and free hand washing stickers are available online at the Department of Environmental Conservation website at: http://www.dec.state.ak.us/eh/fss/fraud.htm. For information from the Municipality of Anchorage Food Safety and Sanitation website got to: http://www.ci.anchorage.ak.us/healthesd/sanity.cfm.
If you have additional questions or if you want to report on any suspicious solicitations, please contact the Department of Law, Consumer Protection Unit at: (907) 269-5200, or toll free at: 1-888-576-2529. You may also contact Ron Klein, Program Manager for the Department of Environmental Conservation Food Safety and Sanitation Program at (907) 269-7501 and Lura Morgan, Environmental Services Division Manager for the Municipality of Anchorage at (907) 343-4200.
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