Instead of dealing with a claimed "ticking time bomb" of health concerns about a product for pregnant women, a Blackmores subsidiary is accused of firing the whistleblower who shed light on them.
Peter Ellis worked for the Blackmores-owned firm Bioceuticals Pty Ltd from March 2016 to April 2021 as a client relationship manager.
Around June 2017, Mr Ellis says he began receiving a number of serious complaints from customers about dark spots that appeared to be mould on the reformulated pregnancy multivitamin InNatal Plus Iron.
He repeatedly brought up these complaints but was told to keep selling the product, he alleged in Federal Court documents.
Mr Ellis has sued for compensation, claiming the company terminated his role in April 2021 and refused to redeploy him.
Bioceuticals is yet to file a defence to the lawsuit, but owner Blackmores told AAP it took product safety seriously and all the former employee's concerns had been properly investigated.
Mr Ellis said he told his supervisor in early 2018 that a lot of customers were worried about their or their unborn children's health due to the spots.
"The message to market is that it's not a safety concern if people have consumed them, but we don't have any assay or microbiology testing to confirm that," he said.
"I'm not OK with telling people they are OK to consume and I know many in the team aren't either."
But he was allegedly told the product wouldn't be quarantined, that the spots were caused by humidity and that he was to offer customers replacement products or credits.
In March 2018, Mr Ellis said he also began receiving complaints about bone health supplement D3 Drops Forte 20ml.
While the product normally had a thick, milky consistency with a vanilla smell, consumers were reporting that it appeared translucent, yellow or brown and had a rancid odour, he said.
Again, Mr Ellis said he made a number of complaints to his supervisors, including in May 2018.
In January 2019, he allegedly raised further complaints about the "unacceptable" level of quality assurance at the firm for the two products.
"Numerous team members and I have raised mental health concerns ... regarding having to deal with such serious complaints and being told to inform customers and consumers that faulty products were safe, efficacious and OK to consume," he said.
Mr Ellis alleged the issues with the iron product had not been resolved by May 2019 and he told his bosses it was "a ticking time bomb with potentially serious consequences".
In June 2020, he submitted a whistleblower complaint that the company had put profits before people's health.
It resulted in an investigation that found the majority of his claims had been substantiated, he said in the lawsuit.
Mr Ellis alleges Bioceuticals took adverse action against him because of these complaints, including threatening him with a demotion and a performance improvement plan.
He also claims the firm terminated his role in April 2021 and refused to redeploy him within the company, which was undergoing a restructure at the time.
In the lawsuit, filed in the Federal Court in September, Mr Ellis is seeking an apology plus compensation for loss and damage suffered, including exemplary damages for hurt, humiliation, anxiety and distress.
Mr Ellis claims he has experienced a loss of income, damage to his reputation and "significant damage" to his future career prospects.
A Blackmores spokeswoman said the firm took product quality and safety very seriously.
"The quality concerns raised by Mr Ellis several years ago were thoroughly investigated and the matter was closed," she said.
"With regard to Mr Ellis' claim, as it is before the courts, it is not appropriate for us to comment at this time."
Australian Associated Press