CO2 crisis: Gas shortage could be 'massive animal health and welfare issue'

210921 Carbon Dioxide shortage
Carbon dioxide is used in food packaging and in abattoirs to stun animals before they're slaughtered.  Credit: PA Images

Wales' rural affairs minister has warned of a "massive animal health and welfare issue" as a result of a crisis in carbon dioxide supplies. 

Lesley Griffiths says that the Welsh Government is monitoring the situation closely and will meet food retailers tomorrow.

But she said the UK Government had to step in because of the complicated links in the food supply chain. 

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is used in food packaging and in abattoirs to stun animals before they're slaughtered. 

However supplies are running low because rapidly-rising gas costs have led to the fertiliser plants which produce CO2 as a by-product being closed. 

Food industry chiefs have warned that that could lead to food shortages in a matter of days. 

Lesley Griffiths said the Welsh Government will meet with retailers as the carbon dioxide crisis continues.

Speaking at a Welsh Government press conference today, rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths said that she and colleagues were "closely monitoring" the situation.

"There is a massive animal health and welfare issue here," she added.

"If our abattoirs aren't able to process meat in the way that we normally go about our business, I think you're absolutely right, it shows the interconnection we have in our food supply chain. "Since we left the European Union, we can't rely on Europe to make up that shortfall of CO2 for instance. So there are discussions. I know my colleague, the Minister for Climate Change met with the BEIS Secretary of State yesterday evening.

"It's something that we are absolutely closely monitoring. I'm meeting with the retailers tomorrow to listen to their concerns. This has been building up now over several weeks and we need the UK government really to start doing some long term planning. 

"I think we haven't seen long term planning, what we have seen from the UK Government for many, many months if not years now, is those short term slogans. They need to be doing some long term planning."

The UK Government is understood to have struck a deal with a major carbon dioxide supplier to restart production which has given some glimmer of hope.

Ian Wright CBE, Chief Executive, Food and Drink Federation, said: “If today’s conversations on shortages have given the CO2 manufacturers enough confidence to restart production, this is to be welcomed. We don’t yet have the detail, but if production can restart at appropriate scale before the end of the week, this should be enough to ensure pig and poultry production can continue at close to normal.

"There will be some shortages, but these will not be as bad as previously feared.

 “When we are certain that the immediate supply issues are resolved, we should then work with government to build resilience into the production of CO2 to protect our food supply chain.”