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Explosion at Mexican candy factory ruled accidental

16 December 2013

Mexican authorities have ruled that an explosion at a candy factory in Ciudad Juárez two months ago was accidental and as a result, there will be no further criminal investigation.  
Just before lunchtime on October 24 a powerful explosion rocked the Dulces Blueberry candy factory, killing one worker immediately and seven others over the following few days.

Twenty-one people were injured, some with severe burns.

The explosion was the result of a chemical reaction involving corn starch and oxygen, according to a report issued this weekend by the Chihuahua State Attorney General's office (FGE). Corn starch is a primary ingredient in the candy-making process.

The Mexican Labour Secretary is still looking into potential safety violations by the factory, which has stopped production for the time being. The candies manufactured in the plant were sold in the United States.

Earlier, FGE spokesman Arturo Sandoval Figon said: “Everything seems to indicate that this was an accident in which there was no malice, or anything to indicate that it was a premeditated situation.”

The Blueberry plant manufactures Sunrise Confections candy products which are sold in large retail outlets in the United States for El Paso-based Mount Franklin Foods, which in turn is a subsidiary of the Elamex company. Blueberry’s workers are not directly employed by the candy maker, instead working for the ELI labor sub-contracting agency.

October’s disaster exposed holes in the emergency response capabilities of an industrial city of more than one million people, as well as long-standing irregularities and alleged illegalities in the worker health, safety and environmental records of Blueberry.

Continued news coverage has reported on the absence of local medical facilities to treat severe burn victims, some of whom had to be transferred to hospitals long distances from Ciudad Juarez; the shortage of ambulances in a city just barely emerging from years of hyper-violence; the paucity of health and safety inspectors to cover 326 export industry plants, or maquiladoras, employing an estimated 227,978 workers, not to mention the more than 8,000 other businesses open in the city; and problems with the 066 emergency response number.

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