Edmonton

Province shuts down Edmonton food-share company

Alberta Health Services has shut down a local food-sharing company that was operating without government approval.

'The operator’s actions were unfortunate, and put AHS in a position of taking legal steps to protect public'

Kian Parseyan shut down his food-sharing service Scarf last month after AHS took legal action. (Kian Parseyan)

Alberta Health Services has shut down an Edmonton food-sharing company that was operating without government approval.

"We thought we were immune to their jurisdiction," said Kian Parseyan, who launched his food-sharing company called Scarf in September.  "We didn't expect it to escalate to that extreme level right away."

Parseyan said there was a mix of "sadness, disappointment and anger" from cooks and customers when Scarf stopped operating last month after receiving a cease-and-desist order. Alberta Health Services wouldn't confirm such an order was sent. 

"We didn't expect it to escalate to that extreme level right away," said Parseyan. "They wouldn't talk to us."

Parseyan's online venture matched Edmonton home cooks with people who could pre-order, pre-pay and pick up meals for about $11. Despite warnings from AHS in October, Scarf continued to operate.

"The operator's actions were unfortunate, and put AHS in a position of taking legal steps to protect (the) public," wrote the health authority in an online blog Monday titled "Public health inspectors are here to protect you."

"AHS attempted to work with the operator of SCARF; however, despite explaining the significant risk that this operation would pose to Albertans, the operator chose to proceed and launch the website, without approval of either AHS or the Government of Alberta."

AHS said people who operate or work for an unapproved food business could be sued or fined.

While he doesn't blame officials, Parseyan said the process has revealed a gap between the growing shared economy and what he described as the current practice of regulating it little by little.

"It's absolutely not going to work with a sharing economy," said Parseyan, who is now looking for a new job as he works on selling the software platform. "They have to get in front of this and try to regulate the entire sharing economy as a whole."

He figured he has lost about about $60,000 in the venture, including start up costs, expenses, and a year of unpaid work.

"We took a risk," said Parseyan. "We knew we were always taking a risk with this. And taking a risk is the most Edmonton thing you can do, right?"