Calls grow for Victoria's CHO to resign over SlugGate fiasco

Program blasts Brett Sutton's handling of events which led to the closure of catering company I Cook Foods.

Calls grow for Victoria's CHO to resign over SlugGate fiasco
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Pressure is mounting on Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton to resign amid fresh revelations relating to the collapse of a catering company after it was singled out for breaching health regulations.

A report broadcast on the Nine Network this week alleged that Sutton’s haste to blame I Cook Foods for the death of an elderly woman at Knox Private Hospital cost dozens of jobs and forced the company out of business.

The allegations relate to an incident in 2019 when a woman’s death was blamed on a case of Listeriosis supposedly contracted after she ate food supplied by I Cook Foods.

Health inspectors claimed to have found a slug at the caterer’s premises and Sutton, in his capacity as chief health officer, ordered I Cook Foods to destroy ten tonnes of food products because “potentially thousands of people have been exposed”.

Dozens of workers lost their jobs as a result, and the business collapsed.

But Nine’s Under Investigation program claimed Sutton was wrong to single out I Cook Foods as the only provider of food to the hospital where the woman died.

A former Knox Council health inspector told the program there were multiple suppliers.

“Why focus on the one supplier? When I knew, (having) been to the hospital kitchen in the past, that there are several suppliers of food products,” he said.

Sutton admitted to a Parliamentary inquiry in 2021 that he made a mistake.

“I erroneously referred to I Cook being Knox Private Hospital’s sole caterer,” he told the inquiry. “This is what was initially understood and had been told to me. I have since been informed … that this was incorrect, and I do apologise for any confusion caused.”

It was later revealed that the CEO of Dandenong Council, which made the decision to shut down the catering business, was also the director of a rival catering company.

I Cook Foods owner Ian Cook, who is running against Dan Andrews in the seat of Mulgrave at the state election, said the decision destroyed his business.

He said there was zero evidence that his business had contributed to anyone’s death, and he has always claimed that the slug found on his premises was planted there, a claim the council denies.

He said his company had been treated differently to other caterers where listeria had been found.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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