Elderly people in Otago and Southland are being served food that is not fit for consumption, a Meals on Wheels volunteer says.
In mid-January, the Compass Group began providing meals for Southern District Health Board (DHB) Meals on Wheels clients in Dunedin and Invercargill.
The international catering company trucks frozen meals from Auckland and Tauranga to the South Island.
One volunteer delivery driver, Liz Green, told Checkpoint with John Campbell she had tried one of the dishes, which she said looked dodgy and bordered on inedible.
"[It] was meant to be a sausage casserole, which was served with mashed potato and some other vegetables... It was incredibly salty, full of water, the sausages in the casserole were - well, I wouldn't give them to the dog."
The service's clients were intelligent people who understood what good, nutritious food should taste like, Ms Green said.
"They're not people that deserve to have second-rate food. They are very engaging, they're lovely to spend that few minutes with each time we go. They're always so grateful to us, they're grateful to [Meals on Wheels volunteer co-ordinator] Age Concern because they're organising everything. Age Concern do a brilliant job.
"But when it comes to a meal that one of the ladies in particular put out and could not eat - partly because it was so wet and sloppy and had spoilt in the reheating, and secondly, because of the amount of salt in it, it was just inedible - it was really not nice."
Southern DHB responds
Southern DHB CEO Carole Heatly said in a statement that the DHB would meet with Compass Group national managers tomorrow to discuss recent complaints.
"Southern DHB take any concerns about the quality of food provided [to] clients very seriously."
The company provided Meals on Wheels to 250 clients a week in Dunedin and Invercargill, and 11 people had cancelled the service in the last two weeks "for a variety of reasons", Ms Heatly said,
The menu had been endorsed by the National Food and Nutrition Advisory Group, and a spot check today had not raised concerns.
"We continue to monitor the food, and today Southern DHB senior managers carried out a spot check of the food to look at presentation and taste which didn't raise any concerns, and they will continue to do so.
"An audit will also be undertaken by one of our dieticians."