Mom-and-pop food stores and restaurants across the GTA are being scammed by fake health inspectors pushing unnecessary food and water tests, authorities say.
Dozens of convenience store and restaurant owners, most of them new Canadians, have told Peel, Halton and Toronto health departments they were contacted by a “food and water safety technician” selling $30 to $40 safety tests.
The so-called technicians reportedly say the tests are mandatory, and hand out what looks like “old meat plant inspection forms” from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said Matt Ruf, Halton Region’s manager of food safety.
“To have somebody preying on people. … It’s distasteful,” Ruf said.
Halton and Toronto officials said the people typically identify themselves as representatives of the Canadian Food Safety Institute or the Canadian Food Safety Resource Centre, which the institute founded according to the website www.cfsrc.com.
The CFSI “is not an agency we would deal with,” said Rob Colvin, manager of healthy environments for Toronto Public Health. “I think it’s just a front.”
So far, only a handful of business owners — including two in Toronto — have been taken in, officials said.
The cases starting emerging first in Peel and Halton in mid-January, then in Toronto about three weeks ago, Colvin said.
Jalal Hadibhai, who owns the Down Under convenience store in Yorkville (110 Bloor St. W), said a woman called Monday, saying she would send a technician the next day to perform E.coli tests in the store. She wanted $39.95 in cash or cheque, he said.
Hadibhai called Toronto Public Health to check whether the tests were legitimate and was told not to buy it, he said. In the end, no one came to the store.
“I would have asked for I.D.,” the store owner said. “I would never give them cash.”