Advisory: Consumers Urged to Throw Away Potentially Contaminated Foods

Agency: Agriculture and Rural Development

Update on the ongoing investigation of intentional contamination of food at grocery stores in Michigan

MDARD immediately responded to this threat to food safety. MDARD sent inspectors to each implicated store to assess the foods, review inventory records and cleaning practices, examine video footage taken at the stores and re-enforce food security and food safety protocols. Additionally, MDARD contacted the corporate offices and store managers to notify them of a possible food issue in the stores. If potential risks to food safety were identified, food was placed under seizure, removed from sale, and immediately disposed of.

As of the afternoon of May 4, MDARD food inspectors have visited all 15 stores, and there is no evidence of further issues at these stores. MDARD will continue working with the FBI during this ongoing investigation, and respond as needed.


For immediate release: May 3, 2016
Media contacts:
Jennifer Holton, MDARD, 517-284-5724 or Jennifer Eisner, MDHHS, 517-230-9804
 
The Michigan departments of Agriculture and Rural Development and Health and Human Services are cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement in Ann Arbor on an investigation involving intentional food contamination at retail grocery stores in Ann Arbor. 

Thanks to citizen tips, the suspect was apprehended by the Ann Arbor Police Department. During interrogation, the suspect admitted to intentionally contaminating salad bars and/or produce sections of at least three grocery stores in the greater Ann Arbor area – Whole Foods, Meijer, Inc. and Plum Market – at least twice in the last month. The suspect claims to have sprayed the food with a mixture of a commercial mouse poison, alcohol-based hand-sanitizer and water. Samples have been sent for further laboratory analysis to determine concentration.

The chemicals found in this mixture are a form of anti-coagulant, similar to what is found in medicines that have an anti-clotting function. Based on the known ingredients in the mixture at this time, MDHHS does not anticipate any adverse health effects on individuals who may have ingested potentially contaminated products.

The stores involved have been contacted and additional samples have been collected by law enforcement for further testing. MDARD food inspectors are in the stores this evening conducting follow-up assessments of the potentially affected stores.

“Out of an abundance of caution and to protect public health and food safety, I encourage consumers to dispose of any foods purchased from salad bars, olive bars and ready-to-eat hot and cold food areas from these stores between mid-March and the end of April,” said Jamie Clover Adams, MDARD director. “Although most of these types of foods may have already been eaten or disposed of, some may still be in refrigerators or freezers.”

Based on FBI investigation, there is the potential that other stores in Michigan may also have been targeted. These stores include:

Busch's 
2240 S Main Street 
Ann Arbor, MI

Cupcake Station 
116 E Liberty 
Ann Arbor, MI

Family Fare 
2026 North Saginaw 
Midland, MI

Kroger 
3838 Richfield Road 
Flint, MI

Meijer, #108 
7300 Eastman Ave 
Midland, MI

Meijer, #64 
3145 Ann Arbor-Saline 
Ann Arbor, MI

Meijer, #213 
9515 Birch Run Rd 
Birch Run, MI

Millers Mini Mart 
3001 Bay City Rd 
Midland, MI

Plum Market 
375 North Maple 
Ann Arbor, MI

Target 
2000 Waters Road  
Ann Arbor, MI

Tsai Grocery 
3115 Oak Valley Drive 
Ann Arbor, MI

Walmart 
910 Joe Mann Blvd 
Midland, MI

Walmart 
7000 E Michigan Ave 
Saline, MI

Whole Foods 
990 W Eisenhower Pkwy 
Ann Arbor, MI

Whole Foods 
3135 Washtenaw Ave 
Ann Arbor, MI
 
“While the risk for adverse health effects appears to be low, more investigation is being done to determine what level of exposure may have occurred,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive, MDHHS. “If you have any health concerns, contact your healthcare provider or call Michigan Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 with questions.”

The departments would like to acknowledge the diligence of employees at Whole Foods, the quick response of the FBI, law enforcement agencies, and local health officials, and those who provided tips via social media, which has led to a speedy resolution to this issue.
Food industry employees and consumers are reminded to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activities. Remember, “If you see something, say something.” Any suspicious activities should be immediately reported to local law enforcement.
Examples of things to watch for include employees or strangers who:

  • spray unknown substances in your store
  • enter or exit your operation through the wrong doors
  • hang around display cases, exposed food displays (e.g., produce or salad bars) or cold/hot food displays
  • loiter in aisles
  • leave suspicious materials in your store

MDARD and MDHHS will continue to coordinate with all agencies involved, along with Washtenaw County Health Department and Michigan’s retail grocery industry. Updates will be provided as new information becomes available.

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