CLAIM

The FBI is warning all Americans of produce sprayed with poison.

MOSTLY FALSE

RATING

MOSTLY FALSE

WHAT'S TRUE

In May 2016, the FBI investigated reports of a man possibly contaminating food in a Michigan market.

WHAT'S FALSE

A warning about poisoned produced was issued to all grocery stores in the United States.

ORIGIN

On 18 July 2016 the web site Q Political published an article (alarmingly titled “FBI Issues Horrifying Warning To Frequent Grocery Shoppers”) that suggested federal investigators had issued a warning about the United States’ food supply. Its opening paragraphs were no less alarming:

The FBI issued a horrifying warning to frequent grocery shoppers, I can’t believe this! Every American needs to see this!

After one young man’s unthinkable actions, washing your fresh fruits and vegetables has never been more important.

Reports have now confirmed our worst fears, as cameras captured one young man visiting several grocery stores with the sole intent of spraying a poisonous mixture on open food throughout their produce sections.

The FBI has issued a warning about going to the grocery store, and advises consumers to dispose all foods recently purchased from salad bars.

The outlet linked to a Detroit Free Press article as a source for its claims. However, the linked article — which was published in May 2016 — specified that the affected grocery stores were only in the area around Ann Arbor, Michigan, and that the FBI investigated the alleged food contamination:

In a potential food poisoning scare, the FBI says it has arrested a man suspected of contaminating produce at open food bars at several Ann Arbor-area grocery stores with a liquid spray containing mice poison, hand cleaner and water.

State health officials say no one has yet reported getting sick from the potentially contaminated food, and it is not yet known if there is any threat to the public. But they are recommending that consumers throw out any salad bar, hot bar and ready-to-eat items that were purchased at potentially affected stores in Ann Arbor, Saline, Midland and Birch Run.

The paper didn’t say the FBI issued a warning in the affected area or anywhere else, just that the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development advised residents in the Ann Arbor region to discard foods that had been “purchased from salad bars, olive bars and ready-to-eat hot and cold food areas from these stores between mid-March and the end of April”:

The investigation has prompted the the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to issue a public advisory, urging consumers to throw away any potentially contaminated food. State health officials said based on what they know about the ingredients in the mixture at this time, they do not anticipate any adverse health effects on individuals who may have eaten the potentially contaminated products.

“Out of an abundance of caution and to protect public health and food safety, I encourage consumers to dispose of any foods purchased from salad bars, olive bars and ready-to-eat hot and cold food areas from these stores between mid-March and the end of April,” said Jamie Clover Adams, MDARD director. “Although most of these types of foods may have already been eaten or disposed of, some may still be in refrigerators or freezers.”

We contacted MDARD to determine if the July 2016 article was accurate or represented a continuation of events that occurred in March and April of 2016. A representative there told us that the agency issued the original salad bar warning “in an abundance of caution,” that no one to their knowledge was sickened by the incidents, and that a suspect was arrested in early May 2016. No further developments in that case (such as arraignments) affected the Ann Arbor community.

The MDARD representative double-checked with the FBI to ensure no such warning was issued. A representative from that agency stated that the statement referred to food from open hot or cold food bars or the produce aisle in one particular store, and only between late April and early May 2016, adding that the FBI was not, and is not, urging shoppers to avoid grocery stores. That remained the case when the already misleading claim was republished by Q Political on 12 May 2017.