Vic’s health department ‘omitted’ evidence in critical I Cook Foods investigation, report says

Victoria’s health department “omitted” evidence from an investigation into the forced shutdown of a Melbourne restaurant business, according to a new report.

Victoria Health Service Evidence “omitted” from a critical investigation into whether officials broke laws regarding the controversial forced shutdown of Melbourne catering company I Cook Foods, a parliamentary report has revealed.

The survey is The final report, filed overnight, met with heavy criticism from those familiar with the case amid an ongoing legal battle.

I Cook Foods was closed in 2019 after the death of an elderly woman at Knox Private Hospital, which the caterer provided, with listeriosis suspected to be a contributing factor in her death.

Victoria’s health director Brett Sutton signed the closing order in 2019, linking the woman’s death to the sandwiches provided by the caterer.

The investigation was reopened on June 24, 2021 after new allegations raised in the media conflict with evidence received during the initial inquiries into the investigation.

They alleged that the DHHS official did not have sufficient evidence to shut down the caterer and that Dandenong council agents working on the case falsified evidence as part of a conspiracy to shut down the business.

Hearings held in recent months have heard from new witnesses and examined whether there were any contradictions in previous evidence.

But a final report tabled in parliament overnight found that the inquiry’s previous findings and recommendations were still valid.

“The committee found that even though health ministry officials did not deliberately mislead the committee, the omission of some evidence ultimately led to the investigation being reopened,” the committee chairperson said. , Fiona Patten.

“However, the new evidence has raised other issues with the processes used by the Department of Health when investigating the listeriosis case at Knox Private Hospital.”

I Cook Foods co-owner Ben Cook blasted the final report.

Mr Cook spoke this year about the investigation, insisting there had been contradictions, cover-ups and a conspiracy related to the shutdown.

He maintained proper processes and the laws were not followed when his family’s business was closed.

Mr Cook criticized the majority report, saying: “If you want to know the truth, read the minority report at the very end of the report.”

The majority report found that the department’s failure to provide Knox Hospital emails for the investigation led to contradictions and confusion, and health department agents did not release key evidence on the source of listeria.

He also revealed that the evidence provided to the investigation by Professor Sutton and Deputy Chief Health Officer Angie Bone did not provide complete information as to why the other providers were not the subject. proper investigation prior to closure.

He made five recommendations, including that the department improve food safety investigations and reporting mechanisms.

Liberals Georgie Crozier, Wendy Lovell and Matthew Bach signed off on the minority report and said they disagreed with several conclusions.

The Liberals said Professor Sutton justified his decision to shut down the business on a small number of grounds despite no other patient in the hospital having contracted listeria.

They said the business was shut down before all investigative information was received by the department, and that Professor Sutton and Dr Bone did not provide full information as part of the investigation. on listeriosis.

“We recommend that an agency outside the government with investigative powers consider further examination of the serious allegations of irregularities by environmental health officers of the Greater Dandenong City Council and the evidence provided to the Ministry of Health, ”they wrote.

A legal battle in the case is still ongoing.

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