A fatal accident at a loading facility in Florida has led to a Christmas-wide whipped cream shortage in the United States, while in Canada supplies are reported to be less affected.
The accident occurred back in August when a tanker in Cantonment, Florida, operated by Airgas exploded while being loaded with nitrous oxide, a key ingredient used in canned whipped desert toppings such as Reddi-wip brand in the U.S. and Gay Lea Whipped Cream in Canada. The explosion caused a second tanker also carrying nitrous oxide to blow and killed plant operator, Graham Folmar, aged 32. “It was like a bomb had gone off,” a nearby resident told WEAR-TV at the time. Normally a safe process, the accident has been blamed on excess heat in the pump used to deliver the nitrous oxide into the tanker.
Also known as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is used in medical practices and dentistry as an anaesthetic and analgesic, along with its use in packaging whipped dessert toppings. The months-ago explosion is now being felt nationwide in the U.S. with prime pie-and dessert-topping season now in full swing.
“Due to an industry-wide nitrous oxide supply issue, there is currently a shortage of some whipped toppings, including Reddi-wip,” said Lanie Friedman, a spokeswoman for ConAgra Foods. “We are proactively managing the production of Reddi-wip, and are doing the best we can to make it available to as many people as possible.”
The company reportedly stopped all production of Reddi-wip in November and now projects that supplies of Reddi-wip will return to normal by February. “Airgas Nitrous Oxide is making all possible efforts to remedy the situation as quickly as possible,” the company said in an statement. “Serving our medical customers is our first priority in this situation.”
In the meantime, stores across the nation are having to make due with limited quantities of the creamy treat. The Lincoln Journal Star in Lincoln, Nebraska, reported a Twitter post by the local Super Saver which reads, “Due to a manufacture shortage of nitrous oxide we may experience shortages of aerosol whipped topping.”
The shortage has apparently had minor effects on Canada’s supply of whipped topping. Gay Lea Foods delivers its Real Whipped Cream brand to Canadian stores and has made adjustments to secure enough nitrous oxide. “We did have supply concerns,” said Larry Hook of Gay Lea Foods to Global News. “[We] have since secured sourcing and will be OK.”
Reddi-wip is the second-most popular whipped topping in the U.S., next to Cool Whip, an oil-based product in comparison to the cream-based Reddi-wip.
Other holiday-themed shortages include a crunch on traditional British sweets like humbugs and buttered popcorn, due to a factory strike in York, England, as well as a tanking Down Under in the supply of prawns (said to be an Aussie Christmastime favourite), caused by a disease in both wild and farmed prawns in Queensland.
And, as always, at shopping malls and discount stores the world over, patience is again running in short supply.