UK food and drink industry asks for government help with CO2 shortage

Beer, fizzy drinks and meat producers have warned of possible shortages caused by a lack of CO2. Credit: PA

ITV News has learned that Britain's food and drink industry is asking for government help in the CO2 shortage.

The Food And Drink Federation (FDF) is urging officials to investigate the scale of the problem and work out possible solutions.

In response, government has started to collect information from across the sector.

We've learned that the Government's Food Chain Liaison Committee has started to look into the issue.

We understand that food manufactures have expressed concern to officials over the possibility of shortages if the current situation continues.

They have highlighted potential shortages in the following areas:

  • Beverages: carbonation of soft drinks, beers and ciders

  • Packaging: CO2 is used in modified atmosphere packaging

  • Salads: often packaged using CO2 gas to lengthen shelf life

  • Poultry: CO2 used to stun birds during slaughter

  • Pork: pigs are also often stunned using the gas

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said that they are "fully aware of the situation", and that thus far, none of their pubs have been affected.

“We are monitoring the situation closely with our suppliers, in order to minimise any disruptions that might occur", he said.

“Like other pub and bar operators, we have been informed by Heineken of their issues with CO2 and that is likely to affect the supply and availability of certain beers and ciders.”

Helen Munday, Chief Scientific Officer for the Food And Drink Federation has said a lack of "clarity" on how long shortages might last is an issue.

In a statement to ITV News, she added: "Despite the focus in the media on certain sectors, this is an issue that will affect much of the UK’s £112bn farm-to-fork supply chain.

"Government must act with urgency to assess the issue as quickly as possible and support the industry through any period of restricted supply.”

Meanwhile, Heineken has confirmed to us that some of its trade customers have been warned that they may not receive their orders in full over the next few days. Those warnings are focused on the availability of Amstel and John Smiths beers.

In a statement from DEFRA, a government spokesperson said: "The Government is aware that there are reports of a CO2 shortage affecting the food and drink sector, and that industry is working to find a solution.

"Whilst this is an issue for industry, the Government is in contact with the relevant companies and trade associations, including those within the food and drink sector and main CO2 suppliers.”