Health inspectors have shut down an unlicensed south Minneapolis food dealer after they said it has been illegally selling raw milk and uninspected meat products.
According to its website, Uptown Locavore, at 3137 Hennepin Av., has been operating since 2008 and sells "high-quality" food from local farmers. The business subscribes to the belief that humans can achieve perfect health through consuming nutrient-dense whole foods and fat-soluble activators found in animal fats, according to its website.
But Daniel Huff, director of environmental health for Minneapolis, says the business model violates the law and the products are unsafe. Unpasteurized milk and cheese can contain bacteria from manure, and the store was selling products from a farmer whose dairy got eight people sick with E. coli in 2010, Huff said. One of those people developed kidney failure.
"The youngest victim in that case was 4 months old," he said. "So it is a dangerous product. And he's selling the exact same farmer's product that got the people sick."
The owner of Uptown Locavore, Will Winter, did not respond to a request for an interview. On his Facebook page, Winter said he runs a legal private buying club in which customers subscribe and know what they're buying.
"Nothing is for sale to the public," he wrote. "We are not a 'store.' This is fully legal in America. However, many of the ground-pounders and officials don't even know our own American, state, county and city laws. They can come down on us hard."
This is not the first time the government has come down on him.
In 2010, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture halted sales at Winter's business, Traditional Foods Minnesota, to investigate food licensing issues. In 2011, the state veterinary board issued a cease-and-desist order for Winter to stop calling himself a holistic veterinarian. At the time, his vet license had been suspended for 11 years, though he claimed to be a practicing vet.
On May 3, health inspectors from the city, along with a Minneapolis police officer and an inspector for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, executed a search warrant on the south Minneapolis property.
The inspector cited six violations related to selling unlicensed dairy products, meat, fish, spices, vinegar and other grocery products. Many of the products lacked any labeling, and Winter would not tell inspectors where they came from, according to the inspector's report.
Huff said they've "embargoed," or locked down, the products at the store, which will stop Winter from selling them.
Winter has not been charged with a crime, and Huff said the city is working on its next steps.
The city will likely condemn the dairy products, meaning they will be destroyed, but they will try to return the meat to the farmer who supplied it for personal consumption or legal sale, Huff said.
"We'd like to get the meat products back to the farmers," he said. "There's also a lot of beautiful fish, salmon, we'd like to get that back to the couple who actually caught that."
If Winter doesn't cooperate, Huff said they will get another warrant to seize the products.
Huff said farmers can legally sell their products at places like farmers markets, but "this owner chose just not to follow the law."