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John S. Forrester
April 26, 2022
3 Min Read
Representative imageImage courtesy of Pixabay
Fact checking website Snopes issued a report this week dispelling an online rumor circulating that asserts there is an ongoing “trend” of suspicious fires at food processing plants in the United States over recent months. Social media users and a number of websites started to spread the theory in April 2022 after several major blazes at food facilities made headlines.
“This claim was used by some to push the notion that nefarious forces were attacking these facilities in order to create a food shortage,” Snopes wrote. “When we examined this rumor, however, it quickly fell apart upon scrutiny.”
While the rumor appears to have originated from social media users, an array of online publishers picked up the story.
An article by stock and financial news website MarketRealist.com claims, “[t]here’s a weird trend going around, and it isn’t a new TikTok dance, but rather food processing plants catching on fire.” After highlighting a number of fires at US food facilities in recent weeks, the piece notes that social media users are “drawing attention” to the “trend,” including conspiracy theories that some of the blazes were intentionally set to drive further product shortages. “For many, the fires seem too similar to be a coincidence,” Market Realist’s Robin Hill-Gray wrote in the April 21 post. “Time will tell if they are correct.”
Christian website AmericanFaith.com also covered the "trend," telling readers, “While most of the incidents have shown no foul play after investigation, the trend presents a curious string of events across the country.”
News, politics, and culture website TimCast described 16 food processing plant fires in the country over a six-month period as a “strange trend.”
All of the articles warned that the country’s food supply chain – particularly meat – will be further strained by the fires.
When Snopes started looking at examples of food processing plant fires included in various articles and social media posts on the “trend,” they discovered that none of the incidents mentioned were linked to suspected arson and that the majority of fires did not significantly impact production at the facilities.
“When we searched for news articles about fires at food manufacturing plants in previous years, it became abundantly clear that this was not a ‘new trend,’” Snopes’ post states.
Engineers who work in manufacturing environments are well aware of fire and explosion hazards, but the general public is often less informed of the risks. For example, combustible dust research group Dust Safety Science found there were 116 dust fires and 26 dust explosions at US facilities in 2020 alone. Powder & Bulk Solids commends Snopes for playing a role in squashing this rumor and helping to increase awareness of the realities of industrial fire safety.
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