We came across several messages being shared on Singapore-based Telegram groups:
The authors of the comments talk about how there have been a suspicious number of food processing plants and factories in the US being burned down recently, and that it is a strong suggestion that there is some sort of a food shortage that is purposefully being created.
Another comment even goes so far as to link the incidents to the COVID-19 vaccine:
According to the author of the comment, these incidents are “not a coincidence” and “if they aren’t gonna jab you, they will starve you next”.
However, it is uncertain why a seemingly US-centric piece of news seems to be of such concern to some Singaporeans.
There have been a spate of fires, but…
Given that the claims are linked to food processing factories in the US, we turn to US-based fact-checkers and publications for some insights.
According to sources we came across, these claims have actually been observed to have been spreading on social media in April 2022. In a report by The Washington Post, we read that according to analysis of social media, traditional media and other channels by media intelligence firm Zignal Labs on behalf of The Associated Press, chatter about food processing plant fires had “significantly increased in April, compared with March”.
To add fuel to the fire (pun intended), Fox News host Tucker Carlson talked about the theory on a 22 April show, where he asked: “What is going on here, exactly?”
His guest, radio host Jason Rantz had also called the incidents “obviously suspicious”.
The truth is, while there were several industrial accidents that have happened recently, the narrative that is being spread is that this is a recent worrying ‘trend’ of sorts.
“Nothing to See Here”
On 2 May, the National Fire Protection Association published an article titled “Nothing to See Here” addressing the claims being made.
They said that there is “nothing is unusual about any of the fires that have occurred in food processing plants over the first few months of the year”. In fact, in 2019, the number of fires at all manufacturing or processing plants in the country topped had 5,300—nearly 15 a day. Susan McKelvey, an NFPA spokesperson said: “The recent inquiries around these fires appears to be a case of people suddenly paying attention to them and being surprised about how often they do occur.”
The American Association of Meat Processors also said in a statement to PolitiFact that there “doesn’t appear to be any evidence of a deliberate attack on the food industry”, adding in a statement to WCNC that they have”not seen anything that that points to it being suspicious in any way.”
“A lot of them seem to be mechanical failures, or just you know, very unfortunate, tragic things that happened. But nothing that was deliberate.”
Sarah Little, the Vice President of Communications for the North American Meat Institute, also told WCNC that they “are not aware of any concerted effort to set food processing facilities on fire”.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had said that there are currently no food shortages or widespread disruptions of the food supply in the US, although availability of some products may be temporarily low at times.
Therefore, it is false that there is a recent worrying trend of food processing factories being burned down, and that it is done in a bid to create food shortages.