A viral tweet echoes a conspiratorial narrative about fires at food processing plants. But it doesn’t provide evidence for the numbers it cites or for claims that an unusual rash of fires is disrupting the nation’s food supply. Let’s take a look at the facts.
Conspiracy theories often rely on baseless claims made without evidence or necessary context. The claim that there have been an unusual number of fires at agricultural and food processing facilities is entirely unfounded — but that hasn’t stopped influential figures on the far right from cherry-picking normal events to fabricate “evidence” of a conspiracy. This disinformation narrative might “feel” true when such fires are presented out of context due to a logical fallacy called the base rate fallacy. In this instance, the base rate fallacy causes people to mistake individual examples of these fires as “evidence” of something worthy of suspicion because they are generally unaware of just how many food-related facilities there are in the U.S. and how many fires tend to occur in such facilities (more than one each day on average between 2015 and 2019). It is likely that adherents of the food plant conspiracy theory will attempt to use future fires at food-related locations, and that the theory will mutate and evolve. For example, another recent viral falsehood that the USDA is predicting egg prices to reach $12 a dozen is, in some examples (screenshot here), tied back to the fire conspiracy.
- “Food Processing Plant Fires in 2022, Explained” (Kim LaCapria, Truth or Fiction).
- “Unfounded Claims About Frequency and Causes of Food Plant Fires” (Saranac Hale Spencer, FactCheck.org).
- “Are Fires at Food Processing Plants a ‘New Trend’?” (Dan Evon, Snopes).
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