Warburtons has shut down crumpet production because of a CO2 shortage

June 29, 2018, 3:06 pm
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Source: The Independent

Baker forced to stop making crumpets at factories in Enfield and Burnley due to lack of gas used to keep them fresh

Crumpets became the latest item to fall victim to a Europe-wide shortage of carbon dioxide which is used to keep food fresh.

On Thursday, Warburtons was forced to stop making crumpets at two of its four bakeries, in Enfield in London and Burnley in Lancashire, because it did not have enough CO2.

A spokesperson said: “We are working hard to ensure availability but we are already experiencing shortfalls and this will only continue to get worse unless supply is returned to normal very soon.

“Faced with the tough trading conditions that we were all already battling, it’s fair to say this is a most unwelcome challenge to be dealing with right now.”

The gas is used to prolong the shelf life of meat, fish and baked goods; to stun animals before slaughter and to make drinks fizzy, but shutdowns of plants across Europe mean that stocks are running low.

A host of other items, including beer and poultry, have already been affected and an industry body warned on Friday that the problem will get worse.

The choice of products on supermarket shelves will begin to fall next week, Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said.

Supermarket shelves will not be empty but “choice will be eroded”, he told the BBC’s Today Programme.

“We will see fewer chicken dishes, fewer pork and bacon dishes, we’ll see probably less carbonated drinks and certainly bakery and other things that benefit from what’s called modified atmosphere packaging, which is plastic packaging with a tray underneath and a dish of food in them, will be hit,” Mr Wright said.

“There will be much more restricted choice as the week goes on and there’s no real sign of supply reappearing.”

CO2 suppliers have said production should restart “in the middle of next week” two weeks after it was halted, Mr Wright said.

He criticised the relaxed attitude of government and suppliers which he said described as “really quite concerning”.

When CO2 does become available again it will take some time to filter through to food producers, he said.

The crisis could be a preview of the disruption that lies ahead in March next year when the UK leaves the EU, Mr Wright said.

Business face the prospect of increased customs, health and safety and other checks after Brexit.

Last week, the makers of Heineken’s John Smith’s Extra Smooth and Amstel said they were having problems with CO2 supplies and wholesaler Booker began rationing customers to 10 cases of beer and five cases of cider or soft drinks per purchase.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said the shortage is a “significant crisis” for the hospitality sector, but said pubs and bars had not yet begun limiting beer sales to consumers.

“If the shortage in CO2 is not dealt with pretty quickly, then some venues could find themselves facing real trouble,” she warned, adding that safeguards must be implemented to stop the same thing happening again.

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