CO2 shortage: Food industry calls for government action

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Carbon dioxide has a range of uses including packaging fresh food

The food and drink industry is urging the government to take swift action amid a continuing shortage of CO2.

Carbon dioxide is used in guns for killing farm animals and providing the fizz in carbonated drinks. CO2 is also used in certain medical procedures.

The British Poultry Council said the shortage could have a "potentially huge effect" on food production.

And the Food and Drink Federation said it would affect much of the "farm-to-fork supply chain".

It said there was a lack of clarity regarding how long a shortage might last and it urged the government to "act with urgency to assess the issue" as quickly as possible.

Government officials are expected to hold talks with food industry representatives on Thursday over how to manage the CO2 shortage.


At least five CO2 producers in northern Europe are offline for maintenance, according to the publication Gasworld.

Seasonal maintenance shutdowns have left the UK with only one big CO2 producer in action.

The British Poultry Council (BPC) has warned that up to 60% of poultry processing plants could be knocked out "within days" as a result of the CO2 shortage.

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) will be taking part in Thursday's meeting, along with the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

BMPA deputy-director Fiona Steiger said: "Supply is running out and it's pretty tight for some people.

"We don't know when supplies will be back up. We've been told it could be about a month."

Supplies of Heineken's John Smith's Extra Smooth and Amstel have been already been hit.

Heineken said it was "working with customers to minimise disruption".

Case study: Mark O'Neill, The Beer and Gas Man

Image source, Mark O'Neill

Mr O'Neill's business supplies 700 pubs in the Midlands.

He said: "My customers are really concerned. I have had so many calls coming in I had to charge my phone twice already before it was even 10am.

"There are customers who are panicking. One wanted to order 30-40 cylinders - their normal weekly order is one or two.

"Unless there is an intermediate delivery we won't be returning to normal before the beginning of July. Without that, we will run dry in about a week's time."

Wetherspoons pub chain said that while it had not had any supply issues yet, "that is likely to change in the coming days".


The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), which represents brewers and 20,000 UK pubs, said the CO2 shortage was beginning to cause stoppages in beer production, although it did not name specific companies.

Demand for beer and fizzy drinks is peaking as fans gather to watch the football, thanks to the recent run of hot weather.

It comes from ammonia plants that manufacture fertiliser. But as demand for fertiliser peaks in winter, manufacturers often shut down during the summer for maintenance work.

The BBPA has issued some guidance to its members reminding them that CO2 used in drinks, including for dispensing beer at the pumps, must be food grade gas.

"We'd be concerned this is not the time to go looking for a white van man who says they can supply you with CO2," she said.

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