This follows the news that stockpiles of food-grade CO2 have been dwindling, affecting soft drinks and lager producers across Europe.
British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths outlined exactly how CO2 is used in food supply: “We use it for two main areas. One is stunning the birds and the other is in packaging, as part of the modified atmosphere packaging process."
Griffiths told The Morning Advertiser: “I am not saying the country is going to lose 50 to 60% production overnight but there will be severe impacts on the production of chicken and that will affect foodservice and pubs.
“We are trying to get the industry prioritised for what CO2 supplies there are out there. We are working on alternatives and working with the Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs as well as other Government departments to try and keep the food supply chain moving but, ultimately, it depends on whether there is any gas out there to be had.
“That is what no one seems to be able to tell us at the moment. For [pubs] as much as it is for poultry producers, we are thrust into this situation, which is not of our own making and we are really nervous. It’s a period of 'wait and see' if there are the supplies out there.”
Griffiths advised operators on what to do during this time. He said: “Keep in contact with suppliers, see what the situation is.
“We are trying to keep the information flowing throughout the chain so everyone knows exactly what is going on."
He added: “At the moment, nothing has changed. No one has run out but I know that some [producers] are very close, very close indeed.
“If the shortage continues and we can’t get more supplies then decisions are going to have to be made in the next day or so as to the levels of production next week.”
He continued: “Either of those two have a significant impact but many plants use it for both reasons. I am hearing plants are changing the mix in their packaging in order to have more [CO2] available for stunning.
“There are contingencies, there are options being explored but they are certainly not long term. They are temporary fixed to ‘eke out’ the supplies for a few days perhaps.
“Any businesses that sells British food, in particular British chicken and I know the pig sector is affected as well, they are likely to be affected if we can’t get those supplies going again.”
Planning ahead will help pubs ride the storm according to UK Hospitality (UKH) chief executive Kate Nicholls.
She said: “The shortage of CO2 is a significant crisis for the hospitality sector and pubs in particular, but suppliers are working hard to try to mitigate the impact.
“This crisis is not helped by the fact it is happening during the World Cup when demand is likely to be higher in pubs and bars.
“If the shortage in CO2 begins to significantly hit food supplies as well as drinks then some venues could find themselves facing real trouble.
“Venues will need to be proactive and look to plan ahead as much as they are able to do so and UKH is liaising with its members to ensure the correct guidance is in place for businesses.
“There is a limit to what we can do beyond ensuring that businesses are kept up to date as suppliers look to rectify the problem.”