If you have produce from Kuntry Gardens, throw it out. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) said in a Monday press release that the Homer, Mich. farm used raw, untreated human waste on fields to grow produce sold at several local grocers.
Untreated human waste is known to cause several foodborne illnesses including hepatitis A and E. coli, and while MDARD says no illnesses have been reported as a result of the contamination, they urge consumers experiencing foodborne illness symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and jaundice to seek medical attention.
The following locations within Washtenaw County sell Kuntry Gardens produce, and any products recently purchased from the following may be contaminated.
- Busch’s Fresh Food Market stores in Ann Arbor, Dexter and Saline
- White Lotus Farms, 7217 W. Liberty Rd, Ann Arbor
- Argus Farm Stop, 325 W. Liberty Street, Ann Arbor
- Agricole Farm Stop, 118 N. Main Street, Chelsea
- Ypsilanti Food Co-op, 312 North River Street, Ypsilanti
Todd Robinson, vice president of marketing at Busch’s, told The Michigan Daily the store immediately identified the affected products and sent an email to consumers who had purchased any of the products with their MyWay loyalty accounts.
“Once we found out about it, we immediately pulled the products off of our shelves,” Robinson said. “Because most of our guests are part of our MyWay loyalty program, we knew who had purchased the product.”
He emphasized that Kuntry Gardens products makes up a miniscule amount of the store’s produce selection, and Busch’s is committed to resolving the situation for everyone who purchased the tainted goods.
“It’s less than one half of one percent of what we sell,” Robinson said. “If you’ve purchased it, make sure you throw it away, and we’ll be sure to give you a refund.”
Corinne Sikorski, general manager of Ypsilanti Food Co-op, said they did not have products from Kuntry Gardens at the time of the recall but still took care to avoid contamination, cleaning surfaces and discarding products that were in close contact with the affected produce.
“Staff immediately cleaned all surfaces … where those products would’ve been including display baskets and things like that,” Sikorski said. “We did not have any (Kuntry Gardens) products at the time.”
Sikorski said she expects few customers will still have the affected produce, but the co-op will work with any who do to make things right.
In an interview with WDIV, Kuntry Gardens owner Andy Stutzman described the contamination as an “honest mistake” stemming from the improper disposal of waste from an outhouse. Stutzman added the company will halt all sales for the remainder of the year as a precaution.
MDARD seized all remaining produce being grown at Kuntry Gardens to prevent it being sold for human or animal consumption.
Kuntry Gardens referred The Daily to a statement on the Argus Farm Stop website.
“We take this very seriously,” the statement reads. “We immediately removed all KG produce off our shelves. We have received NO reports from consumers whose health was affected. We are communicating with both MDARD and Andy Stutzman, the Amish farmer who runs Kuntry Gardens.”
The statement says MDARD has concluded this was an “unintentional contamination” and that Stutzman is pursuing field testing, something MDARD has not yet done.
A copy of the inspection report obtained by The Daily confirms Stutzman did not empty the waste into the fields while produce was present, but MDARD nonetheless found the use of contaminated plows and other equipment across several fields, including those where produce was present, constitutes a violation.
MDARD Communications Director Jennifer Holton told The Daily that her department is working with the Clinton County Health Department and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to conduct an investigation of the situation, though they are still early on in the process.
She clarified that MDARD discovered the issue while conducting a regular inspection of Kuntry Gardens. According to Holton, the fecal matter was applied directly to the produce.
“During the course of our routine inspection, the farmer disclosed directly to the inspector that he was indeed applying (human waste) directly to the produce fields,” Holton said.
In response to the investigation, Holton told The Daily that MDARD is working to prevent any additional produce from making its way to grocery store shelves, and they have already sent a cease and desist order to the farm.
“The department has placed any product that is still at the farm under seizure,” Holton said. “Additionally we’ve placed a cease and desist order on the farm to stop that practice from continuing.”
Managing News Editor Dominic Coletti can be reached at email@example.com and Daily Staff Reporter Matthew Shanbom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Daily News Editor Roni Kane contributed reporting.