Fact Check

Did Bumblebee Recall Tuna Contaminated with Human Remains?

Claims that cans of Bumble Bee tuna are being recalled due to the discovery of human remains in the product are fake news.

Published Mar 20, 2016

A recall was issued for Bumble Bee Tuna after human remains were found in the product.

In March 2016, Bumble Bee Foods announced a pre-emptive recall of some of their canned tuna products due to an issue with the sterilization process at a co-pack facility, even though no problems had been reported in association with the products:

Bumble Bee Foods, LLC announced that it is voluntarily recalling 3 specific UPC codes of canned Chunk Light tuna due to process deviations that occurred in a co-pack facility not owned or operated by Bumble Bee. These deviations were part of the commercial sterilization process and could result in contamination by spoilage organisms or pathogens, which could lead to life-threatening illness if consumed. It is important to note that there have been no reports of illness associated with these products to date. No other production codes or products are affected by this recall.

There are a total of 31,579 cases that are included in the recall which were produced in February 2016 and distributed nationally. The products subject to this recall are marked with a code on the bottom of the can that starts with a "T" (example: TOA2BSCAFB).

The recall is being initiated out of an abundance of caution due to the possible under-processing of the affected products discovered by the co-packer during its routine quality audit. Bumble Bee is working closely with the co-packer and the FDA to expedite the removal of products from commerce.

Over three years earlier, back in October 2012, a tragic incident at a Bumble Bee Foods processing facility had resulted in the death of a worker named José Melena, who was killed after being accidentally locked in a large industrial oven:

Melena was responsible for loading the 54-inch by 36-foot ovens with 12 rolling metal baskets full of tuna cans. The ovens are used to sterilize aluminum cans and to process the tuna in the cans.

At the start of his 4 a.m. shift on Oct. 11, 2012, Melena was ordered by his supervisor to load one particular oven. Sometime before 5 a.m., according to the report, Melena entered the oven to make a repair or to adjust a chain inside the machine, leaving the pallet jack he was using outside the oven.

At that time, a second employee noticed the unused pallet jacket. Assuming Melena was in the bathroom, the second employee took the machine and loaded the oven with the baskets.

"Around the same time, the supervisor questioned why the employee was using the pallet jack and began asking employees if they had seen" Melena, the [Division of Occupational Safety and Health] report said.

The report states an announcement was made on the intercom. Workers also began looking for Melena. They discovered that his vehicle was still in the parking lot. After searching for nearly an hour and a half, the boiler operator suggested that they open the last oven that was loaded.

The workers waited about 30 minutes for the oven to cool down before they could open it. Melena's body was eventually found at the exit side of the oven. Firefighters pronounced him dead at the scene.

This death did not result in any product contamination, nor did it have anything to do with the voluntary recall issued by Bumble Bee Foods over three years later. But the fake news sites News 4 KTLA and The Racket Report published misleading articles shortly after the recall announcement that falsely linked the two events, reproducing (genuine) three-year-old news reports of Melena's death under the fabricated clickbait headline "Massive Bumble Bee Recall After 2 Employees Admit Cooking a Man and Mixing Him with a Batch of Tuna":

It is true that two Bumble Bee employees were charged with violating safety regulations in Melena's death back in 2012, but those employees did not "mix [his remains] with a batch of tuna," nor were their actions in any way related to the March 2016 recall.

The Racket Report's disclaimer notes that the site's articles should not be mistaken for factual news items:

The Racket Report is a news web publication with news articles, inspired by real news events. The articles and stories may or may not use real names, always a semi real and/or mostly, or substantially, fictitious ways. A few articles are for entertainment purposes only. The purpose of said stories is to entertain and amuse and not to disparage any persons, institutions, in anyway and no malice is intended towards anyone or anything, nor should any be construed from the fictional stories. That means some stories on this website are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental or is intended purely as a spoof of such person and is not intended to communicate any true or factual information about that person.

In early 2017, an iteration of the "remains in tuna" fake news item (copied and reposted by a scraper "tips" site in late 2016) circulated. However, its details remained false and the appended image was identical to the one used in the original Racket Report fabrication.


Vives, Ruben.   "Details Emerge About How Bumble Bee Worker Died in Pressure Cooker."     Los Angeles Times.   10 May 2013.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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