Takeaways targeted in 'Food Standards Agency' scam

As obvious targets for extortion scams go, the humble city-centre cafe would not seem to be the most likely choice for con artists.

But food-sellers in one London borough have been sent fake letters purportedly from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) threatening them with a £1,000 fine or closure for supposedly spreading dangerous bacteria.

Squires cafe in Canning Town, east London, contacted Newham Borough Council on Thursday after receiving a letter from a Nottingham address that was marked with the logos of the FSA, the Metropolitan Police and Investors in People. It stated that its author was working "in partnership with Newham Council" and demanded payment of £1,000 within seven working days.

Newham Council has written to every food-selling establishment in the borough, warning them not to be duped into making the payment. The letter states that tests on food bought at the premises had revealed high levels of Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium which can cause meningitis.

Sent from an address in Gedling, north-east Nottingham, the letter threatens criminal proceedings, which could result in imprisonment or a heavier fine, and states solicitors for the FSA had already been appointed.

It is not clear how many premises have received the letter. A spokesman for the FSA said it would never send out such letters. "We talk to people rather than threaten them," he said.

Adeniran Aloyo, the manager of Squires cafe, said the Newham logo on the letter had made him suspicious.

"I was incredibly scared when I read the £1,000 figure but I know that the council is very reluctant to put its logo on letters, so that made me dubious. When I saw the police logo too, I wondered why they would want to get involved with such a small complaint."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable