According to press reports and a press release from the Michigan Depart of Agriculture, James Ruster, owner of Mitchell Hill Farm in Ellsworth, was sentenced last week for a felony violation of Michigan’s Food Law. Ruster pled guilty to willful misbranding and adulteration of food products and was sentenced to 14 to 48 months in prison plus fines and court costs. This is the first felony conviction under this law.
In October 2011 a food inspector investigated a consumer tip that Ruster was selling apple cider at a local farmers market. Mitchell Hill Farm was not approved to produce cider. After repeatedly being informed that he wasn’t meeting safe cider production standards, Ruster continued to make and sell cider.
In November 2012 an investigation by the Health Department of Michigan determined the improperly processed cider caused an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak putting four individuals in the hospital, including two children. The cider was linked to Mitchell Hill Farm.