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Unlicensed store owner won’t say where he got food, raw milk

Officials shut down operation; products included milk from dairy responsible for 2010 outbreak

Health inspectors have shut down a Minneapolis food seller because he was operating without a license, selling raw dairy products and uninspected meat, and refused to provide information on the origin of the products.

Armed with a search warrant, public health officials went into the unlicensed operation, doing business as Uptown Locavore, at 3137 Hennepin Ave. They where they found a variety of foods and beverages for sale in violation of several laws. Inspectors sealed all coolers and freezers that contained food, according to a spokesman from the city health department. The inspectors also documented some perishable food products stored at room temperature in the basement operation.

“Inspectors will work to determine the dispensation of those embargoed products, which could include returning the products to the farms that produced them or their other points of origin or condemnation and destruction,” the health department spokesman said.

The unlicensed operation is “a year-round drop site” that sells food direct from farmers to consumers, according to the Uptown Locavore website. It is a members-only “buying club” and offers delivery service. The operation was originally known as Traditional Foods Warehouse.

A complete inspection report is not yet available, but a complaint filed by the department states inspectors documented several violations, including finding foods and beverages without identifying labels as required by state law. Also, Minnesota law strictly controls the sales of raw dairy products. Only the farmers who produce unpasteurized dairy products can sell them, and only at specific locations such as farmers markets.

The raw dairy products being sold by Uptown Locavore are from a farmer whose dairy products sickened eight people with infections from E. coli bacteria in 2010, according to Daniel Huff, director of environmental health for Minneapolis. One of those victims developed kidney failure.

Officials condemned the raw dairy products on site at the basement retail operation. They can destroy the foods under Minnesota law, but Huff said the department would like to work with owner Will Winter to return the products to the farmers who produced them. If Winter does not cooperate, the city can obtain another warrant and destroy the products.

The operator of Uptown Locavore was offering a number of products for sale from his basement, including unpasteurized milk and cheese, fish, raw beef, raw pork, raw lamb, eggs, honey, coffee, and raw pizza dough. The owner and his attorney refused to provide officials with information about the origin of the products, according to the health department complaint.

In a Facebook post, the operator of Uptown Locavore said the public health officers are “bullies” when it comes to small businesses such as his. Winter’s website says the business has been operating since 2008 and sells high-quality food from local farmers.

“The policy at these agencies is clearly against small enterprise,” Winter wrote on Facebook. “Even without complaints we are GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT! They want to shut down anything except the big box stores that, in this case, support Big Ag.”

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