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Michigan farm treated produce with human waste, state officials say

The Detroit News

State health officials are warning consumers not to eat produce from a southern Michigan farm after it allegedly used untreated human waste on its fields.

During a routine produce safety inspection, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development found Kuntry Gardens of Homer, about an hour and a half west of Detroit, "was using raw, untreated human waste on the fields where produce was grown for sale to local grocery stores and direct sale," officials said in a statement Monday.

The use violates the Michigan Food Law, PA 92 of 2000, as well as other state and federal laws and regulations, according to the release.

"MDARD has placed impacted product still on the farm under seizure and is working with the farm to oversee disposition and corrective action," representatives said.

Representatives for the farm could not immediately be reached.

Besides the Kuntry Gardens location, its products have been sold elsewhere in Michigan:

• Busch’s Fresh Food Market stores in Ann Arbor, Brighton, Canton, Clinton, Dexter, Farmington Hills, Livonia, Novi, Pinckney, Plymouth-Northville, Rochester Hills, Saline, South Lyon, Tecumseh and West Bloomfield.

• Simply Fresh Market, 7300 Grand River, Brighton.

• White Lotus, 7217 W. Liberty, Ann Arbor.

• Argus Farm Stop, 325 W. Liberty, Ann Arbor.

• Agricole Farm Stop, 118 N. Main, Chelsea.

• Pure Pastures, 1192 Ann Arbor, Plymouth.

• Ypsilanti Coop, 312 North River, Ypsilanti.

• Greener Pastures Market, 21202 Pontiac Trail, South Lyon.

• Holiday Market, 520 S. Lilley, Canton Township.

• Cherry Capitol, Traverse City.

Officials with Busch’s Fresh Food Market said Tuesday the grocery store chain removed and discarded all produce supplied by Kuntry Gardens. They said Kuntry Gardens products sold at Busch's stores include: organic cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, onions, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.

Kuntry Gardens represents about one-half of 1% of Busch’s produce sales, they said.

Still, Busch’s is urging customers to check recent purchases for products made by Kuntry Gardens and to discard them. Customers unsure if they bought a Kuntry Gardens product from a Busch's Fresh Food Market location should look for the Kuntry Gardens name on receipts or in their MyWay account.

Busch’s said it is also communicating directly to all customers with a record of purchasing Kuntry Gardens products to make them aware of the situation.

Busch’s stores will provide a full refund for any products purchased since Aug. 1, 2022.

Pure Pastures at 1192 Ann Arbor in Plymouth said its last shipment of tomatoes and squash from Kuntry Gardens was three weeks ago. All they have left is squash, which they're not putting out, said the store.

Ypsilanti Co-op General Manager Corinne Sikorski said it had no produce at the time of the recall.

“We took all precautions necessary by cleaning all surfaces," Sikorski said. "We alerted customers that there was a recall and the reason, what the products were.”

The co-op's last shipment was in the middle of September and they received squash and tomatoes.

No illnesses have been reported to date, MDARD officials said. The state urges anyone experiencing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), fever, abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, weakness, headache or other symptoms of foodborne illness to seek medical advice.

"If not treated professionally, human waste and other body fluids can spread dangerous infectious diseases such as hepatitis A, Clostridium difficile, E coli, rotavirus and norovirus," the department said.

For questions or concerns, consumers can contact MDARD at 1-800-292-3939 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Staff reporter Charles E. Ramirez contributed.