A recent segment on Fox News hosted by Tucker Carlson has fueled rumors circulating the internet that an unusually high number of fires have broken out at US food processing plants in recent months, a claim that was denied this week by fact checker Snopes.
Social media users and a number of websites began spreading the theory in April 2022 after several major food establishment fires made headlines.
After reporting on the crash of a small plane at a General Mills plant, Carlson addressed his viewers: “What’s going on here? The story gets weirder. Food processing plants across the country appear to be on fire. He cited recent fires at an Azure Standard food distribution facility, a boiler explosion at a potato chip factory and an onion packing site in South Texas as examples.
“So industrial accidents happen, of course, but it’s a lot of industrial accidents in food processing plants. At the same time, the president warns us about food shortages. They are hit by planes and catch fire. What’s going on here?”
Guest on Tucker Carlson Tonight, radio host Jason Rantz – who apparently has no significant experience or knowledge of industrial safety issues – described the various fires as “obviously suspicious”.
“This could lead to severe food shortages. That’s why people are like, well, number one, what’s going on? And you have people speculating that this could be an intentional way to disrupt the food supply,” Rantz said. However, the radio personality later noted, “Police say these fires were due to faulty equipment issues, so they’re not saying it was intentional.”
After learning what officials said about these Rantz incidents, Carlson appears to balk at the claim that the fires are unusual. “It’s up to the people who think this is a conspiracy theory to explain what’s going on, what are the chances of it happening. I have no idea,” the host said concluding the segment.
Reactions to the segment varied:
Snopes investigated the rumor and called it false. Looking at the examples of food processing plant fires included in various articles and social media posts on the ‘trend’, researchers found that none of the incidents mentioned were related to a suspected arson and that the majority fires had no significant impact on production at the facilities.
“When we researched news reports about fires in food manufacturing plants in previous years, it became very clear that this was not a ‘new trend,'” says the Snopes post.
The continued spread of the rumor in the news media and on social media may be due to a lack of general public awareness of industrial fire safety issues. Those who work in food manufacturing and distribution environments are very familiar with the fire and explosion hazards in these types of facilities.