Police probe caterer slug corruption claim

·2-min read

Victoria Police will review its investigation of corruption claims at a Melbourne council, following a listeria case and a catering company's bizarre allegation that a slug was planted in its kitchen.

Health authorities and the Dandenong City Council closed down the company I Cook Foods in 2019, after the death of a woman with listeria in a hospital the company provided catering to.

A shutdown order slapped on the company was overturned in court, but the business lost 41 employees and millions of dollars.

It was accused of dozens of breaches of food safety laws - even allegations of a slug in its kitchen.

I Cook Foods accused the council of corruption, and alleged it planted the slug.

But it now appears further police investigations into these allegations went nowhere.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton has now launched an internal investigation into how police handled the case.

"Because of the seriousness of the matter, I just wanted to be really sure - that's why I've appointed someone to really look into it properly," the chief commissioner told 3AW on Friday.

"We're talking about someone's livelihood, we're talking about their business, and I want to be absolutely clear that our investigation has been as thorough and as appropriate as it should be."

He says a detective superintendent will assess how the police investigation was carried out, and the review will be subject to further checks by an assistant commissioner.

The probe comes after two former police detectives spent months looking into the I Cook Foods case, producing 17 volumes of evidence.

The pair claim police failed to conduct a proper investigation into the corruption allegations.

"I don't know whether they're saying we've covered it up ... certainly I think there's an aspect of it that, have we investigated it fully?" Chief Commissioner Patton said.

"... what have we actually done internally, is what I'm asking. Have we interviewed suspects, have we spoken to witnesses?

"So I just want to be clear and sure that what has been assessed as insufficient evidence is in fact accurate," he said.

In 2020 a parliamentary inquiry found I Cook Foods had not been dealt with fairly or consistently by food safety authorities, and it also found there were concerns about a conflict of interest at the Dandenong council.

The council has been contacted for comment.