Criminals posing as health officials employed by the City, are swindling money out of unsuspecting business owners – six cases of bogus health inspectors conning businesses into paying for inspections and certificates that are usually issued for free have been brought to the City’s attention.
These con artists have been requesting payment for the issuing of Certificates of Acceptability (COA) for food premises.
The six cases the City has been made aware have occurred in Mfuleni, Kleinvlei, Nyanga, Strand and Lakeside between February and May this year.
The public should be aware that there is no charge associated with the processing or issuing of a COA indicating that food premises are compliant with health legislation, and City officials are not permitted to accept payment directly from clients. Any applications that do require payment should only occur at a City cash office or via an electronic funds transfer into the City’s direct account.
These incidents are more than just a money-making scheme.
There are potential health risks because, if a certificate of acceptability is issued to a food premises that isn’t compliant with health legislation, it could potentially mean that food safety and hygiene practices are not in place and could result in unsafe food being consumed by customers.
“We encourage anyone who has been conned in this manner to please report it to the police and provide as much information as possible so that those responsible can be brought to book,” said the City’s Mayco Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith.
In another scam, there have been issuing of fake approvals for extended trade in liquor.
Business owners unwittingly contract the services of unscrupulous consultants to facilitate their applications for extended liquor trading hours. There have been at least three such cases reported between August 2017 and July 2018, in Khayelitsha, Bellvile and Parow.
“If anyone comes to your premises and demands payment for any type of inspection or documentation, insist on checking their credentials and verifying their story with the local Environmental Health office. Business owners can also check the legitimacy of any documentation provided by a third party with their environmental health practitioners,” added Alderman Smith.