Asda rations sale of fizzy drinks as national CO2 shortage continue to bite


Supermarket chain Asda is rationing the amount of some fizzy drinks that its online customers can buy as the national CO2 shortage continues.

The retailer has restricted shoppers to six bottles or multipacks of soft drinks online.

Those affected are its own-label soft drinks, plus Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, 7Up, Irn Bru and Fanta.

Asda said the limit did not apply to purchases made at its stores.

Pigs stunned

The carbon dioxide scarcity has already forced beer, fizzy drink, crumpet, and meat firms to curb production.

Scotland’s biggest abattoir is closed and other meat producers are considering adapting their products to use less CO2.

The meat industry has become increasingly frustrated by a lack of information coming from CO2 firms and the UK government in particular over when supplies might return to normal.

“They are not telling us, which means we can’t plan,” said Richard Griffith, from the British Poultry Council.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Department of Business both said they were monitoring the situation.

However, the Food and Drink Federation said ministers should really be on the “front foot” over what could develop into a major food supply issue.

CO2 is widely used in the food processing and drinks industries. It puts the fizz into beer, cider and soft drinks, and is used in food packaging to extend the shelf life of salads, fresh meat and poultry.

The gas is also used to stun pigs and chickens before slaughter, and create dry ice to help keep things chilled while in transit.

However, several UK and mainland European producers of carbon dioxide – a by-product from ammonia production that is used in the fertiliser industry – have been closed for maintenance or scaled down operations.

In the UK, only two of five plants that supply CO2 are operating at the moment, in Ince and Manchester.

The trade journal Gasworld, which first revealed that CO2 was running short, said that the plant at Billingham, County Durham, was due to restart on Monday.

It could take two weeks before supplies of carbon dioxide return to normal, the British Meat Processors Association has warned.

CO2 is used to kill farm animals before processing and in packaging to keep meat fresh but is in short supply.

But BMPA chief executive Nick Allen said its members had been told it could take a fortnight for supplies “return to normal”.

Meanwhile the World Cup football, hot weather, and barbecue season has created an added demand for beer, just when the CO2 plants have gone offline.

The UK’s largest producer of crumpets, Warburton’s, has also halted production at two of its four plants after running out of carbon dioxide which it uses to package the product.

Warburton’s supplies 1.5 million crumpets a week to UK consumers, packaged using carbon dioxide to give them longer shelf life and prevent mould.

But plants in London and Burnley have run out of CO2 and supplies at the company’s Stockton site are intermittent.

“We have had quite big shortfalls,” said Tearmh Taylor, a spokeswoman for Warburton’s.

“We’re probably running at about 50 per cent of what we can normally make” she said.