Did the plea agreement between the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office and Bumble Bee Foods LLC go far enough to send a strong message about securing worker safety — while at the same time avoid unjustly burdening processors with threats of specious prosecutions? It’s a difficult question to answer.
The facts of the case are not in dispute. On October 11, 2012, Jose Melena entered a 35’ retort oven at Bumble Bee Foods in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., as part of his job duties. Co-workers, unaware that Mr. Melena was out of sight deep within the cylindrical oven, placed a 12,000-pound load of tuna in the oven and began the two-hour heat sterilization process. He was trapped inside the oven and died. (See related stories on page 6 and on Process-Heating.com.)