The use of food gases in the beverage and hospitality industries
The use of gases for beer and other drinks is widespread in the UK. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and CO2 / Nitrogen (N2) mixture gases, along with their associated equipment, are routinely used within beverage dispense.
Typical uses for beverage gases include:
- CO2 for soft drinks and lagers.
- Various gas mixtures for premium lagers, ciders, stouts and smoothflow bitters.
The gases do more than merely impart ‘fizz' and propulsion from the keg. They are significant contributors to taste and mouth-feel and hence to customer satisfaction and loyalty. CO2 works to keep keg contents sterile and getting the gas mixture and pressure correct maintains the equilibrium in the keg and ensures the most efficient use of the dispense system.
Gases used for beverage dispense are classified as food and are covered by the Food Safety Act, Food gases have to be supplied in approved gas containers, be filled with gas manufactured to a food specification and the cylinders have to have appropriate labelling, identifying the gas as being of a food specification and including batch labels for traceability. All premises that are involved in the filling and distribution of food gases have to be registered with their Local Authority as a Food Premises.
Guidance on food legislation is available in BCGA GN 14.
Safety of dispense gases
Many BCGA members offer food gases for beverage dispense and provide a wide range of supporting services and equipment to the drinks dispense market. All BCGA members are recognised as legitimate suppliers and, along with several other reputable suppliers, follow the required legislation and conform to current best practice guidelines, such as BCGA CP 32 for the filling of gas cylinders with food gases for beverage dispense. However, there are over 100 fillers in the UK, who offer to fill gas cylinders with food gases, some of whom operate to somewhat lower standards. Ensure your gas supplier is a legitimate and reputable distributor of dispense gases. The (the Brewing, Food and Beverage Industry Suppliers Association) BFBi operate a ‘Gas Suppliers Accreditation Scheme', and manage a ‘Register of Gas Fillers, Suppliers & Installers'. This scheme is designed to provide assurance to retailers that the beverage gas they buy is from an accredited supplier and that it is fit for purpose.
BCGA GN 30 provides guidance and advice to those who need to handle, use and store food gases for beverage dispense. It addresses safety and operational issues associated with food gases, their use in cellars and beverage dispense pressure systems. The document covers cylinder identification, handling, use, corrosion prevention and product quality, and has been developed in consultation with the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and the BFBi.
Licensees are under immense cost pressures, with competition from other leisure activities and greater consumption of alcohol in the home. Sadly, because gas cylinders are easily moved, they are often misappropriated and misused. Increasingly, outlets are being targeted by seemingly attractive offers from non-reputable suppliers of dispense gas. By flouting the law they trade by offering cheap ‘beverage' gas to pubs. Do not be tempted as the consequences of this are:
- One cylinder of bad dispense gas will ruin up to 10 kegs of beer.
- You will lose customers through poor beer quality.
- Your supplier will refuse compensation claims.
- You will be at risk of prosecution for being in breach of several laws. e.g.- Health and Safety at Work etc. Act- Food Regulations
- Carriage of Dangerous Goods (CDG) Regulations
Some of the problems associated with non-reputable suppliers include cylinders incorrectly filled; not adequately checked for food grade gas quality; filled with the wrong gas (e.g. compressed air instead of N2) or allowed to become unsafe from internal corrosion and/or being out of test. The result may be simply poor quality beer, but could also be much more serious, with catastrophic cylinder failure a real possibility.
Whilst your cylinder should be in good condition, it is very important to ensure:
- It has a label displaying information on the contents and the gas supplier.
- It has a food traceability label.
- The valve outlet is sealed.
- The cylinder is in date for its inspection and test (check the cylinder test rings).
BCGA works closely with other Trade Associations such as the BBPA and the BFBi to ensure the safety and quality of gases and their gas cylinders. Jointly we have produced BCGA L10, which provides information on obtaining the right quality dispense gas in a serviceable and legal gas cylinder. The HSE, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and Local Authorities have welcomed BCGA L10.
Corroded food gas cylinders can explode dramatically, causing huge damage, injury and even fatality. This is an example of the damage caused by a food gas cylinder explosion.
Picture: A licensed premises. October 2012.
BCGA will continue to support efforts to eradicate the unsafe and illegal supply of food gas cylinders.
Gas cylinders, as well as beer kegs, are ‘attractive' items for thieves. All gas cylinders should be stored in a secure area. Particular care should be taken when gas cylinders are located ready for delivery/collection. Guidance on storing food gas cylinders is in BCGA GN 30 with more comprehensive information in BCGA CP 44
Only return gas cylinders back to their rightful owner, for beverage gases this is normally either the gas supplier or the brewer. Information on the return and disposal of gas cylinders can be found on the cylinder recovery and disposal page.
All staff handling or using gas cylinders are required to have had adequate training. This includes manual handling, connecting and disconnecting cylinders, a knowledge of the beverage gas dispense system and the properties of the individual gases and their appropriate storage requirements. The training should include information on working in a confined space and the actions to be taken in the event of gas leakage or any likely incident involving gas cylinders.
Safety Data Sheets are to be available for all gases held.
A Powerpoint presentation, to assist with training staff on food gases used in beverage dispense, is available here.
Confined space risks and regulations
All gases, with the exception of oxygen, can kill by asphyxiation. Enriched carbon dioxide atmospheres can be intoxicating. The risk from these hazards is increased in any location where there is inadequate ventilation, such as an enclosed or confined space.
Landlords, event organisers and those responsible for beverage gases should be alert to the hazards associated with storing and using gases within a confined space. Legislation requires that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is carried out and appropriate controls are put in place, through a safe system of work, to protect those who are required to access the area. BCGA GN 9 offers guidance on the application of the Confined Spaces Regulations where beverage dispense gases are located.
The use of liquid nitrogen, liquid CO2 and dry ice
Pubs, clubs and events are venues where, sometimes, people fool around with gases. This can be by inhalation, or to produce dramatic effects in cocktail drinks.
BCGA L 7 explains the dangersof misusing gases and the potential hazards that can occur if gases are used irresponsibly.
BCGA TIS 7 provides information and safety advice for dry ice.
Pubs, clubs and events need adequate Professional Indemnity and Product Liability insurances, which can be rendered void if they do not use their gases and look after their gas cylinders in a safe and responsible way. Have you told your insurers what gases you have and what you do with them?
Within BCGA food gases are the responsibility of Technical Sub-Committee (TSC) 5. BCGA participate in the Beverage Gases Working Group, this includes representation from the DfT, HSE, the BBPA and BFBi. Members can access information on TSC5 and the Beverage Gases Working Group via the ‘Members' area.
This website has a plethora of advice on how to use, store, transport and handle industrial, medical and food gases safely. All BCGA publications are accessible via the ‘Publications' page. The following publications are of interest:
- BCGA CP 32 - The safe filling of food gas cylinders for beverage dispense.
- BCGA CP 42 - Implementation of EIGA carbon dioxide standards.
- BCGA CP 44 - The storage of gas cylinders.
- BCGA GN 9 - The application of the confined spaces regulations to beverage dispense
- BCGA GN 14 - Production, storage, transport and supply of gases for use in food.
- BCGA GN 30 - The safe use of gases in the beverage dispense industry.
- BCGA TIS 7 - Guidelines for the safe transportation, storage, use and disposal of dry ice products.
- BCGA TIS 9 - Gas safety in the hospitality industry.
- BCGA L 7 - The dangers of misusing gases.
- BCGA L 10 - Profit through quality. Good gas, good business.
- BFBi - Gas Suppliers Equipment Code of Practice.
Beverage Gas Services
Find out more about the safe use of food gases used in beverage dispense, keep your employees safe and ensure your customers get the quality drinks that the brewer intended. For more information see our Beverage Gas Services page.