A Minneapolis natural foods outlet has halted operations while the Minnesota Department of Agriculture investigates potential violations of state law.

The investigation of Traditional Foods Minnesota involves "food licensing" issues, Agriculture Department spokesman Mike Schommer said Wednesday, declining to be more specific.

Traditional Foods Minnesota sells a variety of natural foods made by local farmers and sustainable food producers, from fresh duck eggs to dried mushrooms. It's a "buying club," with 800 members who pay a lifetime fee of $75 to shop three times a week.

Opened in 2008, it operates out of a warehouse on W. 61st Street in south Minneapolis. On Wednesday, a sign was taped to Traditional Foods Minnesota's door saying it was under an Agriculture Department "embargo" and "hoped to reopen soon."

Food is embargoed when the state has probable cause that it's adulterated or misbranded. Embargoed food is put on hold, essentially freezing sales.

Traditional Foods Minnesota is the brainchild of Will Winter, a holistic veterinarian, cattle consultant and founder of a line of natural pet vitamins. Winter couldn't be reached for comment.

According to its website, Traditional Foods' other main creator is Alan Kantrud, the Maplewood city attorney. Kantrud didn't return calls for comment.

Warren Burgess, a Traditional Foods Minnesota co-owner, said the buying club wants to "amicably resolve" any issues with the state, but he declined to comment further.

Traditional Foods Minnesota is rooted in a growing movement of people who prefer eating natural, locally grown foods. It's a movement that also attracts drinkers of raw milk, a controversial beverage that's been in the news lately after an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak was traced to a Gibbon, Minn., raw-milk producer, Hartmann Dairy.

Raw milk isn't pasteurized, a process that kills harmful bacteria. Minnesota law allows only occasional sales of it at farms where it's produced. But the Agriculture Department is investigating whether Hartmann sold raw milk in the Twin Cities and elsewhere.

City Pages, in a March 2009 article, reported that raw milk is one of the main foods Traditional Foods Minnesota customers "swear by." It also said "Traditional Foods connects buyers with [raw milk] farmers so they can place a standing order."

Schommer said there's no indication at this time of a link between the Agriculture Department's investigation of Traditional Foods and its investigation of Hartmann Dairy.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003