CO2 crisis fears begin to materialise as wholesaler imposes rationing

Posted: 28 June 2018 | | No comments yet

Abattoirs across the UK are facing the challenge too, with Scotland’s biggest slaughterhouse forced to suspend work.

Fears voiced last week over the potential consequences of Northern Europe’s COshortage have begun to materialise.

Booker, one of the UK’s biggest food wholesaler, announced on Tuesday it had started rationing beer, cider and soft drinks to its bar and restaurant clients. Elsewhere, taps of John Smith’s ale and Strongbow cider have run dry in some Wetherspoon pubs and the Ei Group, the largest pub company in the UK, said some of its properties were running low.

The shortage frothed over into headlines last week with breweries, soft drinks manufacturers and abattoirs expected to be the hardest hit. The crisis apparently stems from a decrease in the production of ammonia in Northern Europe this winter. The process requires hydrogen which is supplied from the reformation of natural gas, a carbon dioxide-producing reaction. This is where much of the COrequired for food and drink manufacture come from.

Last week amidst widespread speculation about what the shortage would entail, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) expressed concern and said it was ‘monitoring the situation’ carefully. The British Soft Drinks Association reacted in a similar vein, saying: “Soft drinks producers in the UK are taking active steps to maintain their service to customers including working with their suppliers to mitigate the impact as well as looking at alternative sources.” 

Now it appears their fears have become a reality. According to the BBC, the soft drinks giant Coca-Cola has halted production in some areas whilst supermarkets Morrisons and Ocado are seeing shortages in frozen products.

Carbon dioxide is essential to the slaughter process. On Tuesday, Scotland’s Quality Pork Ltd was forced to suspend production in its biggest plant.

NFU Scotland’s Pigs and Poultry, and Animal Health and Welfare Policy Manager Penny Middleton, said: “The shortage of CO2 is having a critical impact on the slaughter of pigs and poultry, where gas stunning is the preferred method of slaughter for welfare reasons.

“The processing plant at Brechin has already announced that it will not be able to take any more pigs from today, a decision that will impact heavily on pig units reliant on being able to get pigs away. Any disruption to that flow can result in welfare issues and overcrowding.

“Given the expectation of animal welfare problems on pig and poultry units NFUS feels that it is vital that CO2 supplies are reserved and directed to those plants in need.”

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