CO2 shortages and how it's affecting the food and drink supply chain

4 October, 2021
Allan Peart, Group Commercial Manager

To add to the current pressure on the food and drink supply chain, there is a CO2 shortage and the amount of food-grade CO2 the UK produces has been cut by 60%. 

CF Industries produces CO2 as a by-product of its main product, fertiliser. Its two main plants, in Teesside and in Cheshire, have stopped work because of rises in wholesale gas prices.

Food and drink companies use CO2 in numerous products, including:

  • To carbonate water, soft drinks and alcoholic drinks
  • To dispense drinks such as beer in pubs
  • To promote growth of products in greenhouses
  • To stun animals before slaughter
  • For packaging meats, fresh foods and baked products (carbon dioxide helps extend shelf-life by preventing bacteria)
  • To keep food fresh during transportation (dry ice).

The CO2 supply issues are escalating quickly; with supplies running low, major meat suppliers are estimating that they have only a few days of supply left and are therefore prioritising how they use their remaining supply and limiting the range of product produced.  

The Food & Drink Federation stressed that the UK was not going to run out of food, but there are major concerns over supply.

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