A catering company has slammed a council health inspector’s dumpster-diving tactics.
A catering company has slammed a council health inspector’s dumpster-diving tactics.

Health inspector’s dumpster-diving tactics

A dumpster-diving council health inspector sent food he got from an industrial bin to be tested for listeria as part of a probe into a meals-on-wheels supplier.

The evidence of bin scavenging was included in a document produced by Dandenong Council as part of a court case it had brought against catering company iCook Foods last year.

The council was pursuing 96 charges against the business, temporarily shut down by the Department of Health last year after being linked to food poisoning at a nursing home.

All charges were suddenly withdrawn late last year, amid accusations from owner Ian Cook that evidence - including a slug - had been planted or fabricated by council health inspectors.

iCook Foods claim a slug had been planted or fabricated by council health inspectors.
iCook Foods claim a slug had been planted or fabricated by council health inspectors.

The council has rejected the claims and has stood by its decision to bring charges.

The dumpster-diving evidence was part of a Whitehorse City Council report by a health inspector who had been sent to a meals-on-wheels ­facility in Box Hill. The inspector said in his ­report he collected samples from inside the facility and from black plastic bin bags he saw placed in an "industrial bin".

He said the contents of the bags included vegetables and eggs "all in their own separate takeaway containers" so he deemed they could be taken as samples.

"I took the above foods so they could sent (sic) to the analyst for testing," the report says.

Testing later found no presence of listeria.

Mr Cook said the dumpster diving raised questions about how food businesses were being inspected more broadly.

"Since when did it become okay for a professional health officer with a university degree to go and collect samples out of the dumpster?" he said.

Owner of iCook Foods, Ian Cook (R) and son Ben Cook in the kitchen area of their food production business. Picture: David Caird
Owner of iCook Foods, Ian Cook (R) and son Ben Cook in the kitchen area of their food production business. Picture: David Caird

But Whitehorse Council stood by its dumpster diving, saying it was "satisfied that the process used for collecting these samples was appropriate and consistent with industry practice".

It did not say whether the health inspector physically stepped into the dumpster to retrieve food thrown away, but said testing was "necessary to ensure that the health and safety of an extremely vulnerable section of council's community were protected".

Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said serious questions had been raised by the pursuit of iCook Foods that had "decimated a family business and destroyed dozens of jobs".

She said the Andrews Government had blocked information requests "every step of the way".

This included the Department of Health's refusal to hand over a report it relied on to shut down the business, and which Mr Cook is now suing to obtain.

That matter is scheduled to be heard in the Supreme Court next Monday.

matthew.johnston@news.com.au



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