Europe’s carbon dioxide shortage could last beyond World Cup tournament

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It could be at least another two weeks before supplies of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the United Kingdom return to normal, according to the British meat industry.

A desperate shortage of food-grade CO2 in recent weeks has disrupted the normal operations of meat, alcohol and soda drinks producers in Europe, particularly affecting those based in the U.K.

In food production, CO2 is used both to kill farm animals before processing and then to keep the meat fresh in packaging. Drinks manufacturers that use the gas for the carbonation and storage of beverages have also been affected.

Nick Allen, the British Meat Processors Association’s chief executive, told the BBC’s “Today” program on Monday that members of his organization had been told it could take two weeks for supplies to “return to normal.”

“It has been one of the frustrations right the way through this crisis that the communication from the producers of CO2 hasn’t been very clear,” Allen said.

The shortfall of CO2 in Europe comes at a time of high drinks consumption during the World Cup soccer tournament and amid peak season for summer barbecues.

The supply crunch began after a number of ammonia-based CO2-producing plants in northern Europe held shutdowns in the early weeks of summer in order to carry out maintenance. The situation became critical when a number of bio-ethanol plants, which were expected to step in, also went offline.

On Saturday, the Wal-Mart owned supermarket grocery Asda became the latest big name to admit the effects on its business when it rationed the amount of some soda drinks that online customers can buy.

Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and 7Up were among the brands affected by the Asda restriction.

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