Major industry bodies the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) and Food & Drink Federation (FDF), have voiced their concerns following the news that carbon dioxide gas shortages may affect the supply of food products to UK consumers.

The shortages are said to impact the meat industry as well as the wider food sector because of the knock on effects that can occur further back in the food supply chain, which could be heavily disrupted.

Carbon dioxide gas is used for gas-flushed and modified atmosphere product packaging and in some cases also as a humane method of stunning at the point of slaughter.

Fiona Steiger, deputy director of the BMPA, said: “We are concerned about the CO2 shortage and we and our members are working with the retailers and Government officials to keep the supply chain moving.

“It is understood that shortage of carbon dioxide gas could last approximately four weeks, but the true picture is still emerging as more information comes through from gas suppliers and their customers up and down the food supply chain.

A shortage of CO2 gas has said to therefore affect a wide variety of foods from cooked and fresh meat and ready meals through to pre-packaged salads.

Steiger continues: “I have not heard that any of my members have stopped production, so I am confident there will still be meat for your barbecue and roast this weekend.”

The industry has said it is currently working together to find some alternative solutions to the packing and the slaughterhouse problem.

However reports say that each food business operator will be affected differently depending on what their CO2 usage is, the reserves they have, and what contracts they have in place with their gas suppliers.

If meat producers become unable to operate due to a lack of CO2, slaughtering capacity would also be reduced which is said to create a particular challenge in terms of holding back pigs and re-directing them to other plants not dependent on CO2 in order to prevent an issue.

Helen Munday, chief scientific officer for FDF added: “FDF and its members are concerned about CO2 supplies and the lack of clarity regarding how long a shortage might last and the scale of such a shortage. Despite the focus in the media on certain sectors, this is an issue that will affect much of the UK’s £112bn farm-to-fork supply chain. Government must act with urgency to assess the issue as quickly as possible and support the industry through any period of restricted supply.”