(Source: Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development)
Kyle Bessemer (Source: FBI)
ANN ARBOR, MI (WNEM) -
A suspect arrested after he allegedly intentionally contaminated food at several supermarkets in Mid-Michigan and across the state will have his mental competency evaluated.
Kyle Bessemer, 29, lived in Midland until recently moving to Ann Arbor. He was in court Thursday after being been arraigned on four counts of poisoning food, water or drink
Officials say Bessemer admitted to intentionally contaminating salad bars and produce sections in at least three different grocery stores in the Ann Arbor area. It happened at Whole Foods, Meijer and Plum Market at least twice in the last month, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Officials say there is reason to believe Bessemer may have contaminated food in Midland, Flint, Birch Run and Saline. Click here for the list.
The suspect told police he sprayed the food with a mixture of mouse poison, hand-sanitizer and water.
On May 12 his lawyer asked a judge for a competency evaluation based on conversations with Bessemer and his family.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The other two charges carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
The former Midland resident told investigators he suffers from mental issues and believed someone was trying to poison him.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services does not anticipate any health effects on people who may have consumed the contaminated food.
“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.”
The stores that may have been targeted are listed below:
Busch's - 2240 S. Main St., Ann Arbor
Cupcake Station - 116 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor
Family Fare - 2026 N. Saginaw, Midland
Kroger - 3838 Richfield Rd., Flint
Meijer - 7300 Eastman Ave., Midland
Meijer - 3145 Ann Arbor-Saline, Ann Arbor
Meijer - 9515 Birch Run Rd, Birch Run
Millers Mini Mart - 3001 Bay City Rd, Midland
Plum Market - 375 N. Maple, Ann Arbor
Target - 2000 Waters Rd, Ann Arbor
Tsai Grocery - 3115 Oak Valley Dr., Ann Arbor
Walmart - 910 Joe Mann Blvd., Midland
Walmart - 7000 E. Michigan Ave., Saline
Whole Foods - 990 W. Eisenhower Pkwy, Ann Arbor
Whole Foods - 3135 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor
Food inspectors visited the stores listed above and found no evidence of further issues, MDARD said.
"I really wanted to be able to eat these fruits and vegetables," said Louise Tucker, shopper.
She thought she was taking a healthy step when she bought fresh fruits and vegetables at a local Meijer store, only to discover the healthy food could have been poisoned.
"Very scary because I know I was eating it before I knew it was a threat," Tucker said.
A representative from the FBI said they have evidence to believe the man targeted stores outside of the Ann Arbor area, but would not specify what the evidence is.
The FBI also said they have not discovered a motive for why the man would contaminate produce.
"I don't understand why you'd do that. What would make you do that? You've got to be some kind of psycho," said Anthony Garner, Midland resident.
As for Tucket, she said she was told by Meijer the produce she bought had been washed. For her, she said that's not enough reassurance.
"I don't prefer to have Meijer just wash rat poison off my fruits and vegetables. I won't be shopping there anymore," she said.
The health department has advice for people who fear they may have some of the tainted food in their pantry.
"That should be discarded immediately. Do not take a risk. I mean, there's an old saying if in doubt, throw it out," said Mike Krecek, Director of Midland County Health Department.
He said the situation is isolated, but consumers should always keep their guard up when they buy food that's out in the open.
"I think it's just a matter of balance and trying to really just look over the foods that you do buy and try to make sure they look as clean and as wholesome as possible," Krecek said.
Copyright 2016 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.