Shoppers could face food and drink shortages on supermarket shelves, as a result of an important CO2 supply deal, industry bosses have warned.
The warning comes as last year producers said shortages were looming after fertiliser firm CF Industries said it would stop selling the by-product amid surging costs.
CF Industries produces 60% of the UK’s food-grade CO2.
As a result, the UK government agreed a three-week deal in September 2021, prior to a further deal in October to keep CO2 supply going to firms but this is now due to expire on Monday (7 October).
According to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), it is “critical” the government acts to keep supply moving as it estimated the end of this deal could result in shortages in supermarkets, with fresh produce, meat and fizzy drink firms reliant of CO2 for the production and packaging of items.
According to the trade union, the security of food-grade CO2 supplies has been a “concern for our industry for some time” and warned that this could be another crunch point.
“Last year’s government intervention which guaranteed CF Industries production of CO2 until the end of this month was very welcome,” FDF chief scientific officer Katie Halliwell said.
“We are concerned that with just days now remaining before that agreement comes to an end, and energy prices still very high, there will be further CO2 shortages once again. This could lead to shortages in the products we find on our supermarket shelves – adding further pressures to families already coping with high food-price inflation.”
She added: “It is critical that together we ensure supply can continue and that we build long-term resilience into the production of food-grade CO2.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy added: “The government’s three-week arrangement with CF Fertilisers was necessary to immediately restart operations while a longer-term industry-led agreement was sought without further taxpayer support.
“Without government intervention, the CO2 shortage could have severely impacted the food processing sector, the National Health Service and nuclear power generation.
“We welcome industry’s agreement in October to ensure CF Fertilisers on Teesside can continue to operate even during the current period of high global gas prices.
“It is for the CO2 industry to ensure supplies to UK businesses.”