Iowa’s Department of Inspections and Appeals spends plenty of time making sure businesses follow regulations. But one challenge that’s gone out to some Iowa businesses is not the real thing. The agency’s David Werning says it involves sanitation rules, and a letter that’s gone out to operators of some restaurants.

The letter claims to be from the “Iowa Food Service Compliance Center in Washington, D.C. and it tells operators that the 1999 state code requires them to post “approved authorized signs” by handwashing sinks. It sounds perfectly plausible, right down to having the proper sign. “That’s where the scam comes in,” Werning says, noting Iowa food-handling law is based in the 1997 code and that doesn’t have such a requirement at all.

He says if restaurant inspectors see a handmade sign telling workers to wash, they’ll accept it as proper notification. The bogus letter claims restaurant operators could risk fines or even be shut down if they don’t buy proper signs from the operators of the scam. Werning says anybody with a question about the rules and requirements can easily contact the Food and Consumer Safety Bureau at (515) 281-6538.