Death by Ketchup – Lucknow, India - Gastro Obscura

Death by Ketchup

Six workers at this food processing plant drowned in a giant vat of ketchup. 


The world has no shortage of awful ways to perish, but succumbing to a relentless torrent of an otherwise delicious and much-loved condiment must be chief among them.

That’s exactly what happened at the Akansha Food Products plant in Lucknow, India, where a worker tending to a massive, six-meter-deep vat of fermented vegetables accidentally fell in and drowned. Yes, this was a vat of eventual ketchup, that most wholesome of condiments, taking a life.

It’s an unsettling story, but it gets even worse. Five times worse. 

After the worker fell in and sank beneath the surface, five of her coworkers jumped into the vat to rescue her, unaware of the deadly-serious hazards associated with simmering, fermented vegetable juice. The fumes can be toxic, or at the very least incapacitating, and the temperature of the vat was overwhelming.

These elements combined to form a deadly cocktail, literally, from which there was no escape. All six workers eventually died of their close encounter with still-forming ketchup, a fact that’s sure to have you looking ruefully at the next bottle of the stuff you encounter.

Certain parts of India are not known for their staunch safety regulations, but the dangerous size of the vat, the toxicity of its contents and the apparent unawareness of the workers in the plant have raised concerns about the plant in Lucknow. The owner of the facility was detained by authorities pending investigation into how and why the incident occurred.

Say what you will about safety rules and their need for enforcement, but there’s no explaining an accident of this magnitude. The right (read: wrong) set of circumstances simply converged into a sticky, savory-sweet tragedy. A tragedy that we can learn from in hopes of avoiding more like it in the future.