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Bumble Bee Foods Employees Charged With Baking Co-Worker to Death

They face jail time and fines over safety violations.

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Two employees of canned seafood company Bumble Bee Foods are facing prison time and serious fines over the death of a co-worker. According to the Associated Press, Jose Melena was performing maintenance in a 35-foot-long industrial oven at Bumble Bee's Santa Fe Springs, Calif. plant in 2012. While he was working on the oven, two co-workers loaded it up with 12,000 pounds of canned tuna and turned the oven on. NBC writes that during the two-hour process "to cook and sterilize" the cans, temperatures reached 270 degrees fahrenheit inside the oven, essentially baking Melena to death. When the oven was opened, Melena's body was found.

Los Angeles prosecutors have charged the plant's operations director and its former safety manger, as well as Bumble Bee Foods with violating safety protocols. The two men face three years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 if convicted of all charges, while Bumble Bee faces a maximum fine of $1.5 million. Bumble Bee does not agree with the charges filed. The company notes in a statement: "[While] we remain devastated by the loss of our colleague Jose Melena in the tragic accident... We disagree with and are disappointed by the charges filed by the Los Angeles district attorney's office."

However, this isn't the first time Bumble Bee has gotten into trouble over its inability to follow safety regulations. The AP writes that California's occupational safety agency previously cited the company for "failing to properly assess the danger to employees working in large ovens" and fined Bumble Bee $74,000.

Perhaps Bumble Bee and its two employees should be thankful that they are merely facing fines and jail time over their safety violations. In 2010, the Chinese government introduced a new policy stating that serious food-safety offenders would receive the death penalty.

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