Blue Apron investigation uncovers severe code violations, violence at packing plant

Blue Apron, the largest player the pre-prepped meal delivery service market, is on the defensive following a report that the company has racked up a string of serious health and safety violations in just a few years.

The BuzzFeed report posted Sunday also cited specific instances of violence, at one of the company's largest packing facilities in Richmond, Calif.

In Aug. 2015, a 21-year-old Blue Apron employee was arrested following threats to bring a gun to work so he could shoot his manager. On the day of the arrest, says the report, representatives from California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health concluded their investigation of the facility. They slapped Blue Apron with nine violations totaling $11,695 for what the division alleged to be “unsafe conditions that put workers at risk for fractured bones, chemical burns and more.” A few of those violations were later downgraded following an appeals process.

The report also details several instances in which bomb threats were called in to the packing plant. Other employees have come forward alleging that they were choked, punched, groped or even bitten. Dangerous work conditions may have also caused workers to endure serious injuries.

So is Blue Apron a breeding ground for potentially violent employee behavior? BuzzFeed alleges that the fast-growing company may have rushed its hiring process while expanding. Temporary workers from outside staffing agencies were utilized which may not have performed appropriate background checks.

And as Blue Apron's customer base grew, the company also struggled to keep enough ingredients in stock to make its meals. Some former employees claimed they were even sent to Whole Foods if an item was missing from a recipe.

A Blue Apron executive did not comment directly but the company did issue a reply to the allegations.

“During certain periods in 2014 and 2015, we experienced exceptionally high, unanticipated demand for our product,” they said. “During this time, at our facility in Richmond, CA, we experienced challenges with several temporary staffing agencies whose workers did not meet our performance standards and that sometimes provided workers who did not always abide by our policies and procedures or share our values. As a result, we quickly ended our relationship with these staffing agencies.”

The explosive allegations come amid reports that Blue Apron could exceed $1 billion in revenue during the next year. The rapidly growing pre-packaged meal delivery service industry, which includes players like HelloFresh and Plated, is estimated at about $5 billion.