LISMORE City Council has been accused of heartlessness after forcing an 82-year-old mobile soup kitchen operator off the road.
Two weeks ago Darcy Goodwin, who runs Five Loaves Mobile Soup Kitchen, said he was approached by a council health inspector who found a live cockroach in the back of his van which he uses to transport food for the needy.
The health inspector ordered Mr Goodwin to have the van cleaned and not to drive with food in it until he had passed another council inspection or else risk a $600 fine.
Despite having the van professionally fumigated and cleaned with a pressure gun, plus cleaning it three times himself, the health inspector on Monday morning again refused permission for him to transport food until he cleaned the van's rubber window seals.
Mr Goodwin, who feeds around 150 disadvantaged people every week, said council had thrown his much needed service into jeopardy.
"I've been threatened that $600 would be the fine if I'm caught with a loaf of bread," he said.
"I've been on the road for 25 years and this is the first time I've ever had harassment from council."
Five Loaves volunteer Barry Usher said dozens of needy people had already gone without meals thanks to the van being forced off the road by an over-zealous health inspector.
"If you saw the people who were eating the food they'd eat the bloody cockroaches," Mr Usher said.
Council public health officer Cameron Smith said while they recognised Mr Goodwin's good work, it was important that council complied with the Food Act 2003.
"Council services and provides repairs to Mr Goodwin's vehicles and during a routine service it was identified there may need to be improvements to the food safety measures," Mr Smith said.
"Council and food safety staff have been working with Mr Goodwin to ensure food safety standards are up to scratch."
After another inspection on Monday afternoon, Mr Goodwin was permitted back on the road.