Food processing

No, people don’t set fire to food processing plants

One of the latest allegations seen on social media concerns fires at food processing plants across the country.

CHARLOTTE, NC — The recent fires at food processing plants across the United States have many people speculating online if something else is behind them.

This tweet notes a “strange coincidence” that “18 U.S. food processing facilities have burned down in the past six months.”

Are people intentionally setting fire to food processing plants in order to create a food shortage?

No, people do not intentionally set fire to food processing plants in order to create a food shortage.

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In a statement, Little told us “We are not aware of any concerted effort to burn down any food processing facilities.”

In an email, Super told us, “I can only speak for the chicken, but like any manufacturing plant/industry, there are usually a few fires that occur each year across the country. Most of them are contained fairly quickly.

Gazdziak agrees, saying, “We haven’t seen anything to indicate that he is suspicious in any way. A lot of them seem like mechanical breakdowns, or just very unfortunate and tragic things that happened. But nothing deliberate.

Let’s break down the numbers on what we learned from firefighters:

  • 11 of the fires were ruled accidental or no foul play was suspected
  • Six are still under investigation
  • One was in a vacant building that once housed a meat factory, but no longer exists

Another note: While the tweet mentions 18 fires in six months in the United States, only 12 of them actually happened during that time, and one happened in Canada.

According to a 2019 USDA report, the United States has approximately 36,000 food and beverage processing establishments in operation.

Gazdiak says fires at just 18 factories would not disrupt food supplies.

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“So these individual fires, I mean, they could be disruptions to regular customers of these facilities. But the public as a whole shouldn’t have seen any major differences,” he said.

Super said, “There are approximately 200 federally inspected chicken slaughter plants in the United States and thousands more that process chicken. And it’s just chicken. I wouldn’t call this an “alarming trend”.

The USDA says there are currently no food shortages or widespread disruptions to the food supply in the country.

Here’s what we know about the fires:

  • On April 19, 2022, a fire destroyed the corporate headquarters of Azure Standard, an organic food distributor in Dufur, Oregon. In a press release, the company said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
  • On April 13, 2022, a fire destroyed a Taylor Farms processing facility in Salinas, California. The company’s CEO told NBC’s Salinas station KSBW that it plans to rebuild the facility and that the fire was likely the result of a welding accident.
  • On April 12, 2022, according to the East Conway Fire Department, a fire destroyed the East Conway Beef & Pork Butcher Shop and Slaughterhouse in Conway, New Hampshire.
  • On March 24, 2022, a fire destroyed the Penobscot McCrum potato processing plant in Belfast, Maine. According to the Associated Press, it was ruled accidental.
  • On March 16, 2022, according to KAIT, a fire caused extensive damage to a new production line dedicated to Hot Pockets at a Nestlé factory in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The fire was not the result of foul play or anything suspicious.
  • February 22, 2022, explosion of a propane boiler sparked a fire that destroyed Shearer’s Foods potato chip plant in northeast Oregon.
  • On February 15, 2022, a fire destroyed a building that once housed the Bonanza Meat Co. in El Paso, Texas. Firefighters said the building was not in use at the time of the fire.
  • On Feb. 3, 2022, according to NBC15 in Madison, WI., a fire destroyed part of the Wisconsin River Meats site in Mauston.
  • On January 13, 2022, according to KALB, an explosion and fire damaged the Cargill-Nutrena plant in Lecompte, Louisiana.
  • On January 6, 2022, a fire caused extensive damage to a poultry processing plant in Hamilton, Ontario, according to CHCH-TV.
  • On December 13, 2021, a fire broke out at a food processing plant in San Antonio, Texas. When firefighters arrived on the scene, they found a burning freezer in the facility. $150,000 worth of food was destroyed in the fire.
  • On November 29, 2021, a a fire broke out at the Maid-Rite Steak Company meat processing plant in Scott Township, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. The cause of this fire was deemed accidental. Authorities believe the fire started in a wall.
  • On September 12, 2021, a fire broke out at the JVS USA beef processing plant in Grand Island, Nebraska. According to Drovers, the nation’s oldest livestock publication, the fire was determined to have originated from a heater near the roof in the plant’s rendering area.
  • On August 23, 2021, a fire broke out at Patak Meat Products in Cobb County, Georgia. In March 2022, the company said on Facebook that it is still under reconstruction.
  • On July 31, 2021, according to WVTM, the NBC station in Birmingham, Alabama, a fire broke out at Tyson’s River Valley Ingredients rendering plant in Hanceville, Alabama.
  • On July 25, 2021, a fire damaged a Kellogg’s factory in Memphis, Tennessee. According to firefighters, it was accidentally triggered when a faulty treadmill started a fire in a rice drying machine.
  • On April 30, 2021, a fire broke out at the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Monmouth, Illinois.
  • On January 11, 2021, a fire destroyed the Deli Star meat processing plant in Fayetteville, Illinois, according to Meat + Poultry.

Contact Meghan Bragg at [email protected] and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and instagram.

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