Michigan farm owner says human waste contamination was ‘oversight,’ ‘not intentional’

Safety inspection revealed raw, untreated human waste on Kuntry Gardens farm

Photo by Peter Wendt on Unsplash (Unsplash)

HOMER, Mich. – The owner of a Michigan farm accused of using raw, untreated human waste on fields of produce, which triggered a widespread consumer alert, says the incident was an “oversight.”

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development on Tuesday issued a consumer advisory after a routine safety inspection of Kuntry Gardens in Homer identified raw, untreated human waste on produce fields. The produce was sold to local grocery stores and through direct sale.

Consumers are urged not to eat any produce or products containing produce from Kuntry Gardens, as they may be contaminated with the human waste. Affected products should all be labeled under the name Kuntry Gardens, officials said.

State officials say the use of raw, untreated human waste for growing commodities “intended for human food is a violation of the Michigan Food Law,” in addition to “other state and federal laws and regulations.”

No illnesses have been reported so far in connection with the potential contamination.

Kuntry Garden officials spoke to Local 4 Wednesday, and said the incident was an honest mistake and that the farm was not using human waste as fertilizer.

“This was an incident that happened, it was not intentional. It was an honest mistake. We did not use [human waste] as fertilizer,” said Andy Stutzman, owner of Kuntry Gardens. “It was just a small spot, like 5 feet by 5 feet, of human waste that got dumped there from an outhouse. This happened before the land was plowed. We are going to be testing the soil to make sure the soil is OK for next year. We are stopping all farming/selling for remainder of year as a result of this incident. We are all about food safety, but this is just something that happened and it was an oversight.”

Human waste that has not been professionally treated can potentially spread harmful infectious diseases like E. coli, hepatitis A, rotavirus, norovirus and Clostridium difficile. Anyone who purchased Kuntry Gardens products are urged to seek medical attention if they experience symptoms of a foodborne illness.

Such symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Jaundice
  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Headache

Kuntry Gardens was sold at the following Washtenaw County locations:

  • Busch’s Fresh Food Market stores in Ann Arbor, Dexter and Saline
  • White Lotus Farms, 7217 West Liberty Road,, Ann Arbor
  • Argus Farm Stop, 325 West Liberty Street, Ann Arbor
  • Agricole Farm Stop, 118 North Main Street, Chelsea
  • Ypsi Coop, 312 North River Street, Ypsilanti

And at other locations across Michigan:

  • Kuntry Gardens, 29910 R Drive South, Homer
  • Busch’s Fresh Food Market stores located in Brighton, Canton, Clinton, Farmington Hills, Livonia, Novi, Pinckney, Plymouth-Northville, Rochester Hills, South Lyon, Tecumseh and West Bloomfield
  • Simply Fresh Market, 7300 Grand River Road, Brighton
  • Pure Pastures, 1192 Ann Arbor Road, Plymouth
  • Greener Pastures Market, 21202 Pontiac Trail, South Lyon
  • Holiday Market, 520 South Lilley Road, Canton
  • Cherry Capitol, Traverse City

“MDARD has placed impacted product still on the farm under seizure and is working with the farm to oversee disposition and corrective action,” an MDARD release reads. “Consumers are encouraged to contact the farm or facility where product was purchased for instruction on disposal and refund.”

MDARD can be reached with questions or concerns at 800-292-3939 between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has issued an advisory urging consumers to throw away any produce or products containing produce from Kuntry Gardens, since it may be contaminated with untreated human waste.

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.