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Man dies at fortune cookie factory: Worker died after falling into dough mixer

Fortune Cookies
Fortune Cookies
Wikimedia Commons

A man died at a fortune cookie factory after he reportedly fell into a giant dough mixer. The employee was only 26 years of age. Police say the man was pronounced dead at the Houston cookie making factory over the weekend. The medical examiner’s office said he died of "multiple blunt trauma injuries" after tumbling over and being pulled into the dough-mixing machine.

According to a report from Reuters on May 2, as carried by MSN News, the victim, Elmer Oscar Barrera, worked at the Houston branch of the Wonton Food company. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, who investigated the accident, ruled that his death was an accident. No foul play or suicide was suspected in his death.

On Saturday afternoon, police said Barrera was found mangled inside of the industrial sized mixer by his fellow employees. Police were called to the Wonton factory at 2902 Caroline Street in Houston, where they witnessed the gruesome scene. “The victim, an employee of the Wonton Food Corporation at the above address, was operating an industrial dough mixer,” the Houston police statement read. “A fellow employee found the man deceased in the machine.”

Wonton Food is one of the biggest makers of fortune cookies in the United States. The factory rolls out approximately 4 million cookies per day and ships them worldwide. They have factories set up in Brooklyn, New York and Houston. According to the Houston Press, Wonton “is actually known as one of the leading providers of fortune cookies around the world. It also makes other Asian food under the Golden Bowl brand.”

No details were available on the kind of industrial mixer potentially involved in this death, though most large scale mixers have horizontal spinning arms that heat and work the dough before lowering and dropping it into a vat. Here is a YouTube video of an industrial mixer turning and dropping out a one-ton ball of dough. The Wonton factory in Houston had no prior Occupational Safety & Health Administration injury reports that were significant, and no one had ever died in their factory before.

One of the worst food manufacturing industrial accidents was the 1991 Hamlet chicken processing plant fire in Hamlet, North Carolina. A hydraulic line at an Imperial Foods processing plant failed, starting a fire that killed 25 workers and injured 55 more. The workers became trapped behind fire doors that were locked from the outside. In the 11 years of the plant’s operation at the time, the factory had never had a single safety inspection.

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