CO2 shortage problems not over yet

No sooner had the mainstream media reported the food industry’s concerns​ over supplies of food-grade CO2​ running out following the discontinuation of production by two of CF Fertilisers’ UK plants than they were hailing the Government’s victory in rebooting production.

“We have acted decisively to ensure that CO2​ supplies, which are critical to some of our food sectors, continue to be available following some exceptional events,”​ environment secretary George Eustice said yesterday (21 September), while stressing the deal to restart operations at CF Fertilisers’ Billingham facility was a short term intervention. On Radio 4’s Today programme on 22 September, Eustice explained: “It’s a short period of time. We’re going to help the business with some of its fixed operating costs over the next three weeks and then the market will adjust.” ​He also referred to ‘another plant in Norway that’s expected to come back onstream soon’.

So, job done then? Food processors using CO2​ for humane stunning pigs and poultry before slaughter; modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) of products such as cheese; carbonated soft and alcoholic drinks and refrigerant in temperature controlled storage could breathe a sigh of relief couldn’t they?


Not that simple, says Andrew Kuyk, director general of the Provision Trade Federation, which, among other sectors, represents cheese producers, many of which use CO2​ as a gas in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) to extend product shelf life particularly for exports. For starters, availability will not magically return to full levels immediately. “I’ve seen three days quoted for the time it would take them to get back up and running.”