Death at Blommer Chocolate

The ABCs of Chocolate
[The ABCs of Chocolate-across from Blommer Chocolate Company]

First off, I have great sympathy for Gerardo Castillo’s family, that’s got to be a hard way to die.

Chicago officials and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration hunted Monday for the cause of a fatal gas release that killed a North Side man and hospitalized two others at a chocolate factory on the Near West Side over the weekend. Gerardo Castillo, 30, was killed Sunday in the second fatal accident since 2001 at Blommer Chocolate Co., 600 W. Kinzie St.

Castillo of the 1700 block of West Olive Avenue was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital after a release of ammonialike fumes at the factory. A substance mixed into the chocolate somehow triggered a gaseous chemical reaction, a Chicago Fire Department spokesman said.


OSHA last inspected the facility in 1994, said federal compliance officer Tricia Railton, who was reading from a report. Those safety investigations had to do with workers who were cleaning a piece of equipment that either had not been disconnected or was not marked as being potentially dangerous to the cleaners if turned on. It was not immediately clear if an injury prompted that inspection, Railton said. In 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent an inspector to check the factory after a neighbor complained about the aroma of burnt chocolate. The unidentified complainant also noted a powder-filled plume churning out of a roof duct.

Based on what the inspector saw two mornings in early September, the EPA cited Blommer for violating limits on opacity, or the amount of light blocked by the factory’s grinder dust.

[From U.S., city probing death at chocolate factory —]

But this EPA thing has been ongoing for a while. In fact, we mentioned it to Alderman Reilly when we met him in his office just prior to Reilly being sworn in, and his staff was going to look into it. Pollution and particulates are pollution and particulates, even if they smell like chocolate, and shouldn’t be allowed to permeate the lungs of local residents (like myself, ahem). I am curious as to what the details of this September investigation actually were.

Previous coverage of Blommer on my old blog


5 thoughts on “Death at Blommer Chocolate

  1. Marie says:

    I’m curious about OSHA not having been out there for 14 years, and even then only for a complaint. That seems like a long time. I guess that’s how OSHA operates.

    My sympathies, too, for Gerardo’s family.

  2. capu says:

    Gerardo rip. He was a good young friend, what a

    bad feeling and convulsing emotions when his

    family gave me the news, This very simple hard

    working united family originals of coahuila

    Mexico, with lots of humility I have the

    privilege of working together with them at

    blommer for some yrs. many of gerardo’s brothers

    sisters, his father uncles and cousins work or

    have worked any other time at blommer, hard

    working people almost never complain because the

    fact they are the two only minorities working

    forever there polish and Mexicans, their poor

    English to communicate properly and in need of

    the job, all them beautiful people unbelievable

    hard working people credit to those old polish

    ladies, people that gave their blood to the

    blommer company, spite of the bad conditions of

    the factory, hot like hell, hot chocolate

    everywhere, no ventilation, I was feets away

    down the 3th. flooer of the explotion time ago

    when the other death happened, the explosion of

    the Stupid Old Cocoa bean Roaster so strong that

    demolished the wall of the room exposing it from

    outside the factory building the big hole and

    bent steel beams, Victor Casillas lost his life

    on this explosion, so many times the fire

    department had to fight back hard when this old

    machinery got fire, Old crap. Victor Casillas

    rip, Adrian the other victim on that time almost

    died he was in comma for a while, still young

    fellows like gerardo they left young wife with

    two young kids ,both Victor and Gerardo Good

    soccer players, healthy people. Gera was working

    enclosed in a small room catching the black

    cocoa powder, that is the cocoa liquor after

    been compressed and because it comes very hot

    out of the presses they use nitrogen to cool it

    down, now what the family told me is that there

    was a leakage of the Nitrogen that in same way

    cause the poisoning of Gera, did N combined with

    other substances cause it or what? because it

    seems the poisonous element was odorless still

    waiting for the forensics report, they holding

    for like two more months,Gera found like if he

    fell asleep all skin purple by work bench at the

    bag filler even the coworker firs on the scene

    himself fell to the flour in the spot unconcious

    due to the horrible scene, or may be still the

    poisonous substance still enclosed there, this

    is a small room belive me.. Now , I use to work

    there and the environment conditions, were bad,

    like hell your supervisors lack a communication,

    screaming to old and young coworkers the same,

    and the fast pace of work make that even worse

    than unhealthy and risky at all time.
    There are everywhere too many people without the

    right legal status to work properly in this

    country and had been abused time and time again,

    risking their live since the moment they make

    the hard decision to move for a better living,

    unrefutable fact of nature you have to move in

    order to survive, only choice, but when some

    body, for years keep them exploiting all over

    and over, without remorse, then what is left,

    now who is the guilty one, and then they say,

    hey!!!.. don’t get lawyers we are going to fix

    it good, yeah.. right..
    And don’t come to me with the romantic feelings

    of the smell of the chocolate that impregnates

    the downtown, every time I going there the smell

    brigs to memory frustrating times, even when I

    am enjoying my marathon, (better organization

    this year I hope, please).
    I think blommer enjoys privileges of some kind

    from the city, they have been in this location

    for a while, I remember from time to time they

    just told you hey, here your paycheck less the

    amount of money we gave for charity, so easy

    they always trying to show the good face, I just

    can’t believe OSHA gives Carta Blanca to this

    Company, I got to know Joe Blommer, Rick

    Blommer, they are cordial people but, still

    unfair to the employees inside, any moment

    another victim is waiting to be counted also the

    health problems to what one is exposed inside,

    like the acid from the cocoa liquor cause your

    hair to fall damage your skin perforate your

    lungs and digestive system, employees are the

    living evidence.. apart from various people been

    mutilated because of the obsolete machinery, and

    those machinists on maintenance frustrated,

    hiding o back of the shop drinking their vodka.


  3. Scott Shoco says:

    This is supposed to be a comment section, not a one man campaign to disclose the inner workings of a chocolate factory! Blommer has better than excellent chocolate and they could make a fortune if they sold it online of which they do not for some strange reason. It’s unfortunate people die in the workplace but that’s the world we live in. I’m sure that if anything could have been done to prevent this from happening, blommer would have done it. They don’t wake up every day saying “Gee, I wonder how many Mexicans and Polish people we can exploit today and maybe if we’re lucky we can get one killed for some publicity!” You didn’t like working there but others just may so this comment is nothing but your way of venting for employment that you found less appealing than other may. Warehouses are not air-conditioned and if they were, a candy bar would cost the same price as lobster tail at a fine restaurant! You could have changed jobs rather than complain in here about it but instead I have to read 3 pages of this when there are only 2 comments to begin with! Good day Sir!

  4. michael saule says:

    Osha,in my opinion…like everything else involving the “secretive blommer family”……forget it!

  5. michael saule says:

    PS…Mr. Windbag/Shoco,Your comment sucked!Which Henry descedant re ou trying to impress?

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