October 21, 2018

E. coli in Apple Cider Yields Lifelong Health Issues, Felony Conviction

A Michigan farmer who was repeatedly told to stop making apple cider because he was not meeting food safety standards is headed to jail after an E.coli outbreak linked to the cider hospitalized four people including two small children. Some of those sickened will likely have lifelong health problems stemming from their E.coli O157:H7 infections.

E. coli BacteriaJames Ruster, the owner of Mitchell Hill Farm in Ellsworth, is the first person to be convicted of a felony under Michigan’s Food Law. Ruster pled guilty to willful misbranding and adulteration of food products and was sentenced on February 18, 2014 to 14 to 48 months in prison, plus fines and court costs.

“It’s paramount that we maintain the safety of Michigan’s food and agriculture products. Mr. Ruster showed a blatant neglect for not only the safety of his food products, but the health of his customers. It’s tragic that people were so greatly impacted by his willful disregard for food safety rules and regulations,” said Jamie Clover Adams, director of Michigan’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

In October, 2011, Michigan’s ag dept  received a tip that Ruster, who was not approved to produce cider was selling apple cider at a local farmers market. Ruster continued to make and sell cider after repeatedly being told he was not meeting safe cider production standards.

About a year later, the cider was linked to an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. Four people were hospitalized including two children. More than a year after drinking the tainted cider, some of them are still experiencing symptoms and some likely face lifelong health issues, according to the ag dept. Research shows that long-term health effects of E.coli include kidney and heart problems and high blood pressure that can lead to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.


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