Over the weekend, reports surfaced that Blue Apron—the wildly popular meal-kit delivery service—could exceed $1 billion in revenue in the next year, and may soon go public as an IPO. And while few could deny that the company is one of the leading names in the rapidly expanding world of meal kits, another report from BuzzFeed News on Sunday claims that in an effort to quickly ramp up its operations and meet this new demand, Blue Apron has racked up a number of health and safety violations, and experienced instances of violence between employees, particularly at its facility in Richmond, California.
The piece, titled "The Not-So-Wholesome Reality Behind The Making of Your Meal Kit,” and reported by BuzzFeed's Caroline O'Donovan, begins with a day in August of last year when a 21-year-old employee was arrested after threatening to bring a gun to work so he could shoot his manager.
That same day, representatives from California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health concluded a weeks-long investigation of the facility, slapping Blue Apron with nine violations totaling $11,695 in penalties for “unsafe conditions that put workers at risk for fractured bones, chemical burns, and more.” (Ultimately, the company had some of the violations downgraded after an appeals process.) Finally, after 4 p.m., police came back to Blue Apron because a security guard believed a former employee might have brought a weapon onto the premises; the 26-year-old man had just been fired for groping another worker.
From there, the report details a slew of instances in which bomb threats were called in, employees were choked, punched, groped, and bitten by one another, and unsafe work conditions may have lead to serious injuries suffered by workers.
“All told, interviews with 14 former employees describe a chaotic, stressful environment where employees work long days for wages starting at $12 an hour bagging cilantro or assembling boxes in a warehouse kept at a temperature below 40 degrees,” the report reads, adding that the cold temperatures are required by food safety laws.
Though Blue Apron has set out to accomplish something ambitious—to help tens of thousands of Americans prepare dinner using farm-fresh ingredients for under $10 a plate—but demand has been difficult to keep up with.
According to the report, the hiring process hasn’t been as “stringent” as it should have been over the years, using temporary workers from outside staffing agencies, and at times the company has struggled to keep enough fresh ingredients in stock to make its meals. Former employees claim they were sent to Whole Foods if an item—like celery—was missing from a recipe.
“The company has set out to upend the entrenched industrial food system and disrupt the dinner table by changing the way Americans buy, receive, and prepare food, reducing food waste and increasing distribution and delivery efficiencies in the process,” the article reads. “To do that, it had to rapidly hire a massive unskilled workforce, bringing jobs to a part of the Bay Area that has been largely left behind by Silicon Valley’s boom times.”
Though Blue Apron declined to make an executive available for an interview with BuzzFeed, they issued a number of statements to the website addressing each allegation.
“Blue Apron has learned from the operational challenges during its early days in Richmond, is proud of the culture, processes, and workplace that exist there today, as well as throughout the country, and is always working to improve its workplace environment for all of its employees,” the company wrote.