Michigan man charged with sprinkling poison on food at stores

The man suspected of sprinkling a combination of mouse poison, hand sanitizer and water on produce in grocery stores in Michigan was arraigned on Thursday in district court in Ann Arbor, Mich., on four felony counts of poisoning food and drink.

mouse.poison.ann_.arbor_Kyle Andrew Bessemer, 29, was arrested after he was identified by members of the public when images from surveillance video showing him in a grocery store with a red shopping basket were published online, the F.B.I. and the local police announced on Tuesday.

The authorities said Mr. Bessemer, of Ann Arbor, had intentionally contaminated food in open food bars and produce sections by spraying the items with the mixture at stores, including a Whole Foods Market, a Meijer and a Plum Market, over the last two weeks.

It was not clear if anyone had been sickened by the poison or how it had been detected. The authorities did not provide a motive.

The announcement that someone had randomly doused self-serve food sent a shudder of concern throughout the food industry, which is well aware of the unintentional contamination associated with people serving themselves from common bowls and trays, said Michael Doyle, the director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.

Consumers lean in and heap their plates, some without utensils. People sneeze into the food. Some scoop up a little taste with their fingers. Strands of hair, from scalps or beards, can drift down into the serving bowls. Mr. Doyle said his wife once found a Band-Aid in a salad.

“I try to avoid them,” he said, referring to salad bars and buffets.

Man put mouse poison on food in Michigan stores

Police and federal agents said they’ve arrested a man suspected of spraying food with a mouse poison mixture at Ann Arbor-area grocery stores.

mouse.poison.ann.arborThe FBI said a tip from the public led to the suspect, whom they haven’t identified.

David Gelios, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit Division, said the man admitted to contaminating food with a potentially hazardous liquid at the Whole Foods Market on West Eisenhower Parkway, a Meijer store on Ann Arbor-Saline Road and Plum Market on North Maple Road.

“The suspect has admitted to using a potentially hazardous material to contaminate food in several Ann Arbor-area grocery stores,” Gelios said. “Our joint investigation leads us to believe that this individual sprayed a liquid mixture of hand sanitizer, water and Tomcat mice poison on produce.”

He also said the suspect told investigators he sprayed the chemicals on produce in those stores within the last two weeks.

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

2240 S Main Street
Ann Arbor, MI

Cupcake Station
116 E Liberty
Ann Arbor, MI

Family Fare
2026 North Saginaw
Midland, MI

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

2000 Waters Road
Ann Arbor, MI

Tsai Grocery
3115 Oak Valley Drive
Ann Arbor, MI

910 Joe Mann Blvd
Midland, MI

7000 E Michigan Ave
Saline, MI

Whole Foods
990 W Eisenhower Pkwy
Ann Arbor, MI

Whole Foods
3135 Washtenaw Ave
Ann Arbor, MI

sq-willard-crispin-glover-rat-nl“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.

Ann Arbor high school senior suffers long illness; cause unknown

AnnArbor.com reports that for the past three years, Kayla Brophy (right, photo from AnnArbor.com) dreamt what this spring would be like. A steady contributor to the Saline High School softball team since she was a freshman, this was her time.

She was going to be a senior captain in the pitching circle. After splitting time with upperclassmen – including her own sister, Lisa, for two years – this year’s Hornet squad was going to be Brophy’s team to put on her shoulders and carry.

It didn’t happen. Instead, she spent February, March and April in a light-headed, queasy-stomached fog. She missed 10 weeks of school. She made numerous trips to the emergency room for intravenous fluids. She took a battery of tests administered by a battery of doctors.

It all started on Jan. 30 when Brophy was suffering from severe flu-like symptoms. Maybe it was the flu. Or maybe it was food poisoning? A virus? Nobody is sure.

But when she turned gray and clammy, Carol and Steve Brophy decided to drive their middle child to the emergency room. When Kayla kept losing consciousness as they tried to put on her shoes, Carol and Steve decided to call an ambulance.

After that night’s scare and a two-day hospital stay, Brophy embarked on a 90-day cycle of continuing illness and frustration. With all tests coming back negative, doctors were left to assume that she was battling a virus or simply needed to wait as her body corrected itself from the loop it was thrown for on Jan. 30.

I wonder if it had anything to do with E. coli O145, which would surface a few months later in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ann Arbor E. coli outbreak sickens 10

Amy’s always telling me how great Ann Arbor is, because she spent six years getting PhD-ified there at the University of Michigan.

I’ve been there a couple of times, driving between Ontario and Kansas with Amy, and didn’t think much of the place. Expensive and dumpy.

Now Ann Arbor has its own outbreak of E. coli (sounds like O157:H7) amongst at least 10 residents. Other details were sparse – which is weird considering it’s such a big university town (that was sarcasm).

E. coli outbreak in ground beef linked to Whole Foods Markets

When I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Whole Foods was adjacent to my apartment complex. It was cruel, really. I couldn’t afford to shop there very often but the food always looked so delicious, and, well, wholesome. Yesterday, however, Whole Foods Market recalled fresh ground beef sold between June 2 and August 6 for a possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7.

Seven are sick in Massachusetts and two in Pennsylvania. None in Ann Arbor, yet.

Whole Foods has successfully built its reputation on natural and organic foods with high prices to make you believe you are doing good to your body by shopping there. Personally, I shopped there for the wide array of cheeses and pâté that wasn’t available in my favorite (more affordable) grocery. This outbreak raises the question for me – why are people still getting sick from ground beef processed at Nebraska Beef Ltd. that was previously recalled? And, as Bill Marler points out, why was Whole Foods selling Nebraska Beef? He offers a list of hard-hitting questions for the elite grocery chain that touts its own high standards.

On a side note, the Whole Foods that used to be in my backyard in Ann Arbor has since become a Trader Joe’s. Whole Foods moved down the street to a much larger and fancier location.