Fact Check: Recent Fires At US Food Processing Plants Do NOT Show Plot To Cause Food Shortage

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: Recent Fires At US Food Processing Plants Do NOT Show Plot To Cause Food Shortage No Pattern

Did American food processing facilities mysteriously and suspiciously begin to catch fire after President Joe Biden predicted that there could be real food shortages due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine? No, that's not true: Several incidents on a list of food processing facilities where incidents have occurred predate Biden's comments on food shortages and also predate Russia's invasion. Some of the details in the list are inaccurate or misleading. There is no evidence of the incidents being linked other than the common feature of being food processing facilities. This suggests a web search for specific keywords, not a U.S. government plot to create a food shortage inside its borders.

Biden made the comments about "real food shortages" on March 24, 2022, at a press conference after the Group of Seven (G7) meeting in Brussels. Social media rumors about a string of fires at food processing facilities were amplified when talk show radio host Jason Rantz took the topic to Tucker Carlson's show on Fox News on April 21, 2022. Rantz posted a clip of the segment on Twitter.

Several other posts, lists and memes have been circulating on social media. One example is this Facebook post on April 25, 2022, that includes a map highlighted with red pin markers. The post contains a list of 13 incidents. It opened:

Biden says to expect real food shortages due to Ukraine war.
A few Moments later......
Feb 5th: Wisconsin River Meats processing facility destroyed by fire in Mauston, Wisconsin.
Feb 15th: Bonanza Meat Company goes up in flames in El Paso, Texas
Feb 22nd: Shearer's Foods Food processing plant explodes in Hermiston, Oregon.
Feb 22nd: Fire destroys Deli Star Meat Plant in Fayetteville, Illinois.
March 17th: Nestle Food Plant extensively damaged in fire and new production destroyed Jonesboro, Arkansas.
March 19th: Walmart Food Distribution center catches fire in Plainfield, Indiana.
March 24th: Major Fire at McCrum Potato Plant in Belfast, Maine.
March 29th: Maricopa Food Pantry burns down 50,000 pounds of Food destroyed in Maricopa, Arizona.
March 31st: Rio Fresh Onion factory damaged by fire in San Juan, Texas.
April 13th: Fire destroys East Conway Beef & Pork Meat Market in Conway, New Hampshire.
April 14th: Taylor Farms Food Processing plant burns down Salinas, California.
April 19th: Azure Standard nation's premier independent distributor of organic and healthy food, was destroyed by fire in Dufur, Oregon
April 21st : plane crashes into and destroys General Mills Factory near Atlanta, Georgia.
Reposted*
Mmmmmkay πŸ™ƒπŸ™ƒπŸ™ƒ
Grow food. Know farmers. Yesterday. Heads out of the sand. The gov doesn't love you, nor are they going to help you. Any "help" they offer is going to come with strings attached that you do not want. Time to pull those bootstraps.
YOU ARE STRONG, SMART, RESOURCEFUL, + CAPABLE.
This is how the post appeared at the time of writing:
burneddown.jpg
(Image source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Apr 26 22:47:57 2022 UTC)
Since publication, Lead Stories found the source of the map is the website https://www.iceagefarmer.com/fire/. At the time of writing, the U.S. incidents marked by pins include links to articles about each incident, which all occured between August 9, 2019, and December 17, 2020.
The post begins with a suggestion that is not in sync with the timeline of events in the list: "Biden says to expect real food shortages due to Ukraine war. A few Moments later..."
To further emphasize the sloppy construction of this conspiracy theory, the list of incidents in the Facebook post begins with a February 5, 2022, fire at a Wisconsin meat processing facility -- before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The seventh item on the 13-item list was a March 24, 2022, fire at the McCrum potato plant in Belfast, Maine. That fire, which started near a "fryolator machine" and spread directly into the exhaust system, has been ruled accidental by the state fire marshal's office.
March 24, 2022, was the day Biden held a press conference after the G7 meeting in Brussels. He responded to a question about food shortages at 6:50:

With regard to food shortage, yes, we did talk about food shortages. And -- and it's going to be real. The price of these sanctions is not just imposed upon Russia, it's imposed upon an awful lot of countries as well, including European countries and our country as well. And -- because both Russia and Ukraine have been the breadbasket of Europe in terms of wheat, for example ...

A notable error in the list of food processing facility incidents is the entry "Feb 22nd: Fire destroys Deli Star Meat Plant in Fayetteville, Illinois." The fire at the Deli Star Meat Plant happened on January 11, 2021. Over a year later, on February 22 and 23, 2022, some of the original articles about the fire were updated with links to current articles announcing that the plant was reopening with hopes of hiring about 475 people. How a mistake like this could be made is apparent when viewing the dates of the article displayed in Google search results:
delistar2.jpg
(Image source: Google search screenshot taken on Tue Apr 26 23:31:33 2022 UTC)
There are many food and beverage processing establishments (plants) in the United States -- 36,486, owned by about 31,401 companies in 2017, according to the most recent comprehensive data in the Census Bureau's 2017 Economic Census.
Every 23 seconds, a fire department in the United States responds to a fire somewhere in the nation. A fire occurs in a structure at the rate of one every 64 seconds, and a home fire occurs every 89 seconds.
NFPA statistics for the period of 2015-19 show that in the United States in an average year there are 5,308 structure fires in the "Manufacturing and processing" property class.
Some additional notes about a few of the incidents that appear in the list.
  • On April 21, 2022, a plane did not crash into and destroy a General Mills Factory near Atlanta. According to Covington Police Capt. Ken Malcom, the plane crashed in the parking lot about 300 feet from the plant. Although two people aboard the plane were killed, "The fact that it didn't crash into the plant, saved many lives," Malcom said.
  • On April 14, 2022: Taylor Farms Food Processing plant burned down in Salinas, California. The plant was not operational at this point in the season. Taylor Farms has over 20 facilities across North America. The Salinas Fire department said that 85 to 90 percent of the 225,000-square-foot building was a total loss and that there were indications that a welding project sparked a fire in a wall.
  • On April 13, 2022, a fire destroyed East Conway Beef & Pork Meat Market in Conway, New Hampshire. This is a small local meat processor. According to their Facebook page:

Our facility is equipped to slaughter and smoke beef, pork, lamb, goat, bison and chickens. We are USDA Approved and Federally regulated to process poultry.
We are a family owned and operated small business that takes pride in providing you with exceptional service.

Updates:

  • 2022-05-10T16:06:54Z 2022-05-10T16:06:54Z
    Adds source of map.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


 

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