False claims of food plant fires are evidence of planned food shortages

The claim: Damaged food plants under Biden are evidence of planned food shortages

A Feb. 2 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) shows a screenshot of a tweet about supposed food shortages.

“At least 96 food plants in America have been damaged or destroyed under the Biden Regime,” reads the tweet. “They’re not predicting food shortages. They’re planning them.”

The Instagram post was liked more than 700 times in four days, while the original tweet has been retweeted more than 14,000 times.

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Our rating: False

There is no evidence of any significant increase in disasters at food plants in the US in recent years, nor of any planned food shortages. Data shows the number of fires at all types of manufacturing and processing facilities has been in decline in recent years.

Numbers show drop in fires at manufacturing facilities

Though several large fires at food production facilities have been in the headlines in recent months, there is no evidence food plants have been intentionally destroyed.

The post specifically refers to facilities destroyed since President Joe Biden came into office, but the problem started long before that.

A Feb. 1 blog post on the National Fire Protection Association’s website took aim at a similar claim of supposedly suspicious fires at chicken farms, pointing out that these types of fires happen relatively frequently.

“When we see fires occurring at poultry storage facilities or at barns, we’re not really seeing anything out of the ordinary,” Birgitte Messerschmidt, director of the agency’s research division, said in the blog post. “It’s just the opposite, actually. It’s simply the continuation of what we in the world of fire safety and fire statistics have been seeing play out for years.”

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A 2022 report by the Fire Protection Research Foundation focused specifically on fires in animal housing facilities. It says an average of 1,310 fires occurred at livestock and poultry storage facilities in the US each year from 2014 to 2018. Livestock production facilities had an average of 750 fires annually in that span.

In 2017, the most recent year of data available from the Census Bureau, the US had more than 36,000 food and beverage processing plants, according to the Department of Agriculture.

“A lot of hazards can exist at livestock and poultry storage and production facilities, so it’s not unusual to see fires occur in these properties,” said Jacqueline Wilmot, a project manager for the foundation.

Despite still being relatively common, fires at food production facilities have been slightly declining, Susan McKelvey, a spokesperson for the fire association, told USA TODAY.

Here are the average number of fires each year from 2017 to 2021:

  • All manufacturing and processing facilities: 5,048

  • Grain or livestock storage: 1,122

  • Agriculture: 947

  • Refrigerated storage: 34

But from 2015 to 2019, the annual averages were higher:

  • All manufacturing and processing facilities: 5,308

  • Grain or livestock storage: 1.155

  • Agriculture: 961

  • Refrigerated storage: 35

Matt McKinney, communications manager for the Food Industry Association, said the public can have “full confidence in the security of the nation’s food supply.”

Workers are separated by sheeting at a Tyson Foods plant in Camilla, Georgia.

Workers are separated by sheeting at a Tyson Foods plant in Camilla, Georgia.

“The food industry implements rigorous measures to safeguard food production and ensure Americans can secure the goods they need to keep their families healthy and fed,” he said.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the post for comment.

PolitiFact debunked a similar claim when it surfaced in June 2022.

Our fact-check sources:

  • Susan McKelvey, Feb. 6, Email exchange with USA TODAY

  • Matt McKinney, Feb. 6, Email exchange with USA TODAY

  • David Beohm, Feb. 7, Email exchange with USA TODAY

  • Fire Protection Research Foundation, accessed Feb. 6, Fires in animal housing facilities

  • National Fire Protection Association, Feb. 1, Conspiracy Theory Brewing Over Chicken Farm Fires Is False, Experts Say

  • US Department of Agriculture, accessed Feb. 6, Manufacturing

  • Associated Press, Jan. 30, Officials: Estimated 100,000 hens died in Connecticut fire

  • Hillandale Farms, Jan. 30, Hillandale News and Contacts

  • WGAL, Dec. 14, 2022, Big Lebanon County poultry farm fire does $12 million in damage, kills 250,000 chickens

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim fires are evidence of planned food shortages