Here Is Some Disgusting News About Blue Apron

This little revelation is less than appetizing.

<p><a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/suspicious-parcel-concept-cardboard-box-behind-caution-tape-cross-gm497576546-79195209?st=_p_hazardous%20package" target="_blank">Fredex8</a>/iStock</p>

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


When tech upstarts “disrupt” an established industry, a big part of the business model often involves benefiting from regulatory gray areas. Online-only retailers boomed in part because they could offer most of their consumers something brick-and-mortar outfits couldn’t: no sales tax. When ride-sharing services emerged as the bane of existing taxi enterprises, it probably didn’t hurt that they managed to avoid many of the rules imposed on their competitors. So this BuzzFeed scoop about meal-kit titan Blue Apron didn’t surprise me at all:

Blue Apron got approval to operate a food processing facility from the California Department of Public Health for the first time last month, despite having been packing and shipping boxes of fresh produce and raw fish, poultry, and meat in the state for over three years.

Companies like Blue Apron operate warehouses where workers assemble meal-sized portions of ingredients, from fresh veggies and herbs to raw meat and fish, to be boxed and delivered nationwide. Such enterprises generate plenty of opportunity for adding and spreading contaminants to those ingredients—they’re always one unwashed hand or contaminated glove away from turning a fun cooking experience into a bad stomachache or worse. And that’s why state health departments subject them to inspections. Of course, submitting to inspections from state watchdogs doesn’t easily fit in with the hard-driving, fast-growing startup ethos.

One customer complained about about “receiving a box of food in which chicken blood had allegedly leaked onto produce.”

For its part, Blue Apron told BuzzFeed it had been regulated from the start by the relevant local authority, the Environmental Health Department of the Contra Costa County Health Services. “The company maintained that not only was it unaware of any need to register with the state agency, but it was told in a 2013 phone call with the California Department of Public Health that registering with county officials was sufficient,” BuzzFeed reports.

But a Contra Costa County Health Services official determined in January that the scale of Blue Apron’s Richmond facility “exceeded the standards for a retail food establishment regulated by the county, and, as such, it should have been registered with the California Department of Public Health,” BuzzFeed reports. In July, Contra Costa County Health Services even received a customer complaint about “receiving a box of food in which chicken blood had allegedly leaked onto produce,” BuzzFeed adds.

At any rate, Blue Apron is now fully registered with the state of California, just like every other large-scale brick-and-mortar food processor in the state is supposed to be.

This latest episode isn’t the first time Blue Apron’s growing pains have come on display. Just like other companies in the industry it aims to disrupt, Blue Apron faces complaints from employees about low pay and tough working conditions, another recent BuzzFeed report shows. Last week, market-tracking firm 1010data released research suggesting that only half of Blue Apron customers stick around after the first week of service. The rest bolt after taking advantage of a free offer.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate