FBI: Suspect Arrested in Grocery Food Contamination Case

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 05/03/2016 - 18:25

The individual suspected of contaminating food food bars in several Ann Arbor grocery stores has been identified and taken into custody, according to a press release issued by the FBI May 3.

Tips from the public led to the identification of the suspect. According to the FBI news release, the suspect admitted to using potentially hazardous material to contaminate food at several stores.

The suspect is believed to have sprayed produce with a mixture of hand cleaner, water and Tomcat mice poison at Whole Foods on Eisenhower Parkway, Meijer on Ann Arbor Saline and Plum Market on Maple Road.

The incidents took place in the last two weeks, according to information the suspect provided police.

Police say they are investigating whether the suspect contaminated food at other grocery stores he visited in the last few months. Police are working with state and county health department officials to determine the extent of contamination and the threat to the public.

The FBI and Ann Arbor Police Department was assisted in this investigation by the Michigan Department of Health, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Washtenaw County Health Department.

The FBI and Ann Arbor Police credited the public for providing leads and offering tips which led to swift resolution of the case.

(EDIT -- The following information is from the State of Michigan)

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 potentiallycontaminated 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:

  • Walmart 7000 E Michigan Ave Saline, MI
  • 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
  • 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.

Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of TheSalinePost.com. He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 734-272-6294.

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