After the Rungis fire, conspiracy theses evoke an organized food shortage

The spectacular fire in a fruit and vegetable warehouse at the national interest market in Rungis, Sunday September 25. AURORE MESENGE / AFP

The images of the column of flames, visible from Paris, went around the world. Sunday, September 25, around noon, a fire broke out in the fruit and vegetable warehouse of the Mandar halls in Rungis (Val-de-Marne). Nearly 8,000 square meters of the 234 hectares of the largest fresh produce market in the world were destroyed without causing any casualties.

According to the Créteil prosecutor’s office, quoted by The Parisian, a pallet fire would be the cause of the fire. An investigation should be opened to determine the exact cause of the accident. But according to some conspirators, the criminal origin of the fire is already established.

The theory of a world government and arsonist

It only took five cascading messages on the huge Reddit forum, for the impressive fire to become the object of conspiratorial reinterpretations:

“- Rungis, the largest fresh food market in the world, is engulfed in flames in Paris.
– Any idea what caused this? And why did the fire take on such proportions?
– Sweet potatoes are extremely flammable. This is my theory.
– Probably the same as for Notre-Dame, well I’m speculating of course.
– The government. »

The images of the flames, relayed by the large audience account Disclose TV or by the Russian news agency Ria Novosti, quickly fed various Telegram loops fond of counter-speech, such as those relaying pro-Russian propaganda in the Donbass, the channels conspiracy theorists in Romanian or French-speaking Twitter accounts adept at alternative truths.

“Purification by fire? Something dangerous hidden away? Prevent the spread of an uncool thing? »wonders on Twitter a surfer convinced that this fire responds to unmentionable objectives. “Don’t be conspiratorial, it’s not to encourage food shortages! »adds another ironically. “As by chance, on Sunday! », another exclaims.

An interpretation from the United States

The rhetoric of organized fire starts by occult groups is not new. It largely fueled the conspiratorial discourse after the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral in 2019.

But it took a new turn in 2022. In a context of soaring global food prices, warehouse fires are presented as the result of a desire to starve poor people. They would be perpetrated by a group plotting against the people, and of which the World Economic Forum and its founder Klaus Schwab are often presented as the masterminds.

The reasoning, of questionable logic, assumes that the elite ruling the world must increase poverty in order to better control the crowds. Inflation being in fact redefined no longer as an economic phenomenon with multiple factors, but as one of the levers for the implementation of the “Great Reset”, a world dictatorship inspired by communist China.

Read also What is “The Great Reset”, a book turned conspiracy theory?

In North America, since the spring of 2022, the slightest industrial accident in an agri-food site has been read as a deliberate act initiated by this fantasized caste. Several photomontages presenting press clippings relating to twenty industrial fires have fueled suspicion, as spotted by the American site Snopes. “Our food supply is under attack in America. The question is: by whom? » wrote

pro-Trump conspiracy activist Charlie Kink.

Like rumors of French electoral fraud at the voting machine in the spring, or accusations of a plot hatched by billionaire Bill Gates shortly after the appearance of Covid-19, the theme of fires perpetrated to fuel inflation has crossed the Atlantic, a sign of the extreme porosity between the Anglophone and Francophone conglomerates.

But, no more in North America than in France, these accusatory insinuations are not based on anything concrete. “Reuters found no evidence that the 2022 fires were intentional or planned for the purpose of creating food shortages, and fires in food processing plants are not uncommon,” recalls the American press agency.

The American verification site Snopes even noted that examples of recent fires agitated by the American conspiracy concern warehouses that have been abandoned for several years, the destruction of which cannot therefore influence either stocks or prices.

Impressive but often accidental fires

Similarly, in France, fires in food warehouses are nothing new or exceptional. In a 2000 report, the National Institute for the Industrial Environment and Risks (Ineris) counted about fifteen cases a year in 1992 and 1993 in France, and more than a hundred over thirty years in France, Poland and Czech Republic.

If the damage is impressive, the cause is often trivial. “In many cases, maintenance and repair work was the cause of the accidents”according to Ineris, which also cites electric sparks, physical processes of self-heating, or industrial processes of drying at excessively high temperatures.

More recently, FM Global, an industrial risk consulting and insurance company, pointed out two failures often involved in the most destructive agri-food fires: the absence of sprinklers (automatic water extinguishers often hung from the ceiling) and the use insulation panels comprising plastic cells, known for their combustible properties. The Belgian risk management consulting company Vanbreda Risk & Benefits also explains that many agri-food companies were initially small structures which sometimes grew in haste, and where “the addition of ancillary buildings is not always carefully thought out”. A finding that could apply to some conspiracy theories.

William Audureau


The article is in French

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