Ethanol shortages may affect the shelf life of packaged foods

20 May 2020

As demand for fuel has collapsed during the pandemic, so too has ethanol production – which is blended into gasoline – and its byproduct CO2. Due to CO2’s integral role in food production, fears about a shortage of carbon dioxide have spurred predictions of reduced meat, beer and soda inventories.

According to data from the American Farm Bureau Federation and cited by Reuters, the food and beverage sector uses 40% of commercial carbon dioxide. As ethanol plants are the largest sellers of the commodity, the fact that two-thirds of U.S. plants have shuttered poses a large problem for the industry.

Ethanol shortages may affect the shelf life of packaged foods

Carbon dioxide is a common gas used in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP). It is often used in combination with nitrogen gas to inhibit the development of aerobic microorganisms. Studies have shown that packaging that uses higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in MAP can extend product shelf-life by 50 – 200%. However, altering the mix of gas, even slightly, can have significant impacts to shelf life.

Meat processors – who are already suffering as a result of rampant COVID-19 diagnoses in meatpacking facilities – are dependent on CO2 to process, package, preserve and ship their products. Raw and cooked meat are generally packed with a 25-40% proportion of carbon dioxide in the MAP gas mixture, according to research firm Campden BRI. Such a high percentage serves to inhibit microorganism growth, which is essential to providing safe products to consumers.

Carbon dioxide is also used in the meat industry as a refrigerant and a method to stun animals prior to their slaughter.

A reduction in the availability of CO2 will not only affect the ability of the food industry to guarantee the stable preservation of products, but it will also affect the beer industry. Reuters reported that CO2 prices for brewers had increased 25% by mid-April and carbonation supplies could continue to dwindle.

In response to these shortages, the Compressed Gas Association, in collaboration with the North American Meat Institute, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Brewers Association, sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence requesting emergency federal assistance in order restart manufacturing plants that contribute to CO2 production. The lobbying group called the production of CO2 “essential critical infrastructure” and said, “Without stable sources of CO2 across the nation, these food and beverage manufacturers will be unable to operate at capacity, leading to shortages for Americans of the important goods they depend on, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Related news

PepsiCo partners up to sequence the oat genome

PepsiCo partners up to sequence the oat genome

20 Jul 2020

PepsiCo and its partners sequenced the complete oat genome for the first time, only taking four months to complete the process. The data was published on an open source platform for use by other companies looking to develop and improve new oat varietie...

Read more 
Gates Foundation leads $45 million investment in crop protection startup

Gates Foundation leads $45 million investment in crop protection startup

10 Jul 2020

Crop protection company Enko Chem announced that it raised $45 million in a Series B funding round led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with participation from Anterra Capital, Rabobank, Finistere Ventures, Novalis LifeSciences, Germin8 Venture...

Read more 
Spending on U.S. advertising for sugary drinks increases 26% to over $1 billion

Spending on U.S. advertising for sugary drinks increases 26% to over $1 billion

9 Jul 2020

Beverage companies increased their spending on advertising sugary drinks by 26% to over $1 billion between 2013 and 2018, according to a new study from UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. This increase in advertising primarily targets communit...

Read more 
EU invests €20m into sugar beet biorefinery for carbon neutral organic acids

EU invests €20m into sugar beet biorefinery for carbon neutral organic acids

8 Jul 2020

To reduce its reliance on petroleum-based chemicals in the food and agricultural industries, the European Commission and the public-private Bio Based Industry Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) are investing €20 million in the construction of a sugar beet bior...

Read more 
Euromonitor report: How will Covid-19 change consumer focus in retail?

Euromonitor report: How will Covid-19 change consumer focus in retail?

25 Jun 2020

The global pandemic that arrived this spring has upended the food and beverage market for both manufacturers and consumers in unpredictable ways. In a new report from Euromonitor, the market research firm looked at the future state of the FMCG sector a...

Read more 
Research shows adding iodine to salt may pose risks to some populations

Research shows adding iodine to salt may pose risks to some populations

23 Jun 2020

A new study by the Norwegian’s Scientific Committee on Food and the Environment (VKM) concluded that although the addition of iodine to salt used in products throughout the country would benefit adolescents and women of childbearing age, the same incre...

Read more 
UK organic food sales soar despite lockdown

UK organic food sales soar despite lockdown

22 Jun 2020

Sales of organic food in the UK have reached record levels and increased during the COVID-19 lockdown – but can the sales be sustained now that the panic buying has subsided?

Read more 
New tracing technology to help identify Salmonella outbreaks

New tracing technology to help identify Salmonella outbreaks

18 Jun 2020

Australian researchers from the University of New South Wales Sydney have developed a technique to identify Salmonella strains in order to more effectively trace outbreaks. The multilevel genome typing (MGT) method, which took two years to develop, ide...

Read more 
Study: lower-calorie diet and exercise led to diabetes remission in 61% of patients

Study: lower-calorie diet and exercise led to diabetes remission in 61% of patients

16 Jun 2020

A new study from Qatar published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal found that lifestyle intervention that focused on a low-calorie diet and exercise let to diabetes remission in 61% of patients.

Read more 
Apeel Sciences on track to save 20 million pieces of fruit from food waste

Apeel Sciences on track to save 20 million pieces of fruit from food waste

9 Jun 2020

At the end of May, Apeel Sciences raised $250 million dollars in new financing, bringing the startup’s total funding to more than $1 billion. This infusion of funds will be put toward the company’s mission of food waste prevention, an area in which it ...

Read more