What was seen as an opportunity for about 250 dumpster-diving scavengers during the winter storm in Austin turned out to be risky to their health more than anything, according to a constable.

Photos posted to Travis County Constable George Morales III’s Facebook page on Thursday shows baskets full of food outside of an H-E-B store that people believed to be free and good to eat. It turns out, Morales warned, it was far from safe.

“This is not free food! We had over 250 people fighting in the dumpsters because someone posted ‘Free Food!’ The food is rotten and spoiled, and is unsafe to eat,” Morales wrote.

He added that his deputies and Austin police officers were called to handle the traffic gridlock around the grocery store in the city’s south end.

Video captured by KEYE-TV shows the dumpster diving unfolding, with people on top of the receptacles and others waiting on the ground with shopping carts.

A Texas news station obtained video showing a crowd of dumpster divers converge on discarded food behind an H-E-B grocery store on Feb. 2, 2023.KEYE-TV Austin

So why were there so many food items out in the open?

According to H-E-B, the winter storm that much of Texas is dealing with may be to blame. The company wrote in a statement to KEYE:

“Due to a sustained power outage, the store was unable to keep certain perishable foods at proper temperatures. To adhere to strict food quality and safety standards, we are required to dispose of certain perishable foods when they are not properly temperature controlled, which also prevents us from donating the items to food pantries and food banks. H-E-B is a large donor to Texas food banks and donates more than 34 million pounds of food each year to support Texans in need.”

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