Gases for Beverage Dispense

All gases supplied for use in the hospitality industry for beverages are classified as food and must be compliant with food legislation, principally the Food Safety Act.

Food grade gases are used during the production process and for the dispense of beverages. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and CO2 / Nitrogen (N2) mixture gases, along with their associated equipment, are routinely used.  Good quality gas is essential for serving the product in the way that the drinks supplier intended. Some typical uses for food gases include:

CO2 for soft drinks and lagers
Various gas mixtures for premium lagers, ciders, stouts and smoothflow bitters

The gases do more than provide propulsion from the keg to the tap, they also preserve the ‘fizz’, which is a significant contributor to taste and mouth-feel and hence to customer satisfaction and loyalty. Getting the gas mixture and pressure correct maintains the equilibrium in the keg and ensures the most efficient use of the dispense system.

Food gases have to be supplied in approved gas cylinders which are filled with a gas manufactured to a food specification. The cylinders must have appropriate labelling, identifying the gas as being of a food specification, including having batch labels for traceability. All premises that are involved in the filling and distribution of food gases must be registered with their Local Authority as a Food Premises.

Guidance on food legislation is available in BCGA GN 14.

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Be safe using food gases

Many BCGA members offer a variety of food grade gases for beverage dispense and provide a wide range of supporting services and equipment to the drinks dispense market.

Find a BCGA member here.

BCGA members are recognised as legitimate suppliers of food gases and, along with other reputable suppliers, follow the required legislation and conform to current best practice guidelines, such as BCGA CP 32, when filling gas cylinders with a food grade gas for use in beverage dispense. However, there are other companies in the UK, who operate to somewhat lower standards!

Ensure your gas supplier is a legitimate and reputable distributor of food gases.  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 food grade gas they buy is from an accredited supplier and that it is fit for purpose.

All gas cylinders should be stored in a well ventilated, secure area.  Guidance on storing food gas cylinders is available in BCGA GN 30 with more comprehensive information in BCGA CP 44. 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.

BCGA have produced two posters, for display at the workplace, including the cellar, to help publicise the hazards of incorrectly obtaining, storing and using beverage gases. These posters can be downloaded below.

Keep your cylinders secure.  Particular care should be taken when gas cylinders are delivered or are located ready for collection. Only return gas cylinders back to their rightful owner. The owners name will be marked on the cylinder. For food grade gases this is normally either the gas supplier or the brewer. More information on the return and disposal of gas cylinders can be found on our cylinder recovery and disposal webpage.

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?

 

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Use the correct food gas

Licensees are under immense cost pressures, with competition from other leisure activities and off-license sales. Licensees are increasingly being targeted by seemingly attractive offers from non-reputable suppliers.

Gas cylinders are designed to be transportable, but sadly, this also makes them ‘attractive’ items for thieves and, as such, they are often misappropriated and misused.
By flouting the law, some traders offer cheap gases to pubs. Do not be tempted as the cylinder may not be safe for use, it may not be filled to the correct volume and pressure, the gas may not be what you wanted (e.g. compressed air instead of N2) and it may not be of a food quality.  The consequences of using a poor quality gas include:
  • one cylinder of poor gas will ruin up to 10 kegs of beer;
  • you will lose customers as the gas affects the quality of the beer;
  • 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, etc.

The use of such cylinders may be simply poor quality beer, but it could also be much more serious, with catastrophic cylinder failure a real possibility.  Corroded gas cylinders can fail dramatically, causing huge damage, injury and even fatality!

Whilst your cylinder may look in a reasonable condition, it is very important to check that:

  • it has a label displaying contact information for the gas supplier;
  • it has a label displaying information on the contents;
  • it has a food traceability label;
  • the label includes appropriate safety information
  • the valve outlet is sealed;
  • the cylinder is in date for its inspection and test (check the cylinder test rings).

BCGA TIS 6 provides useful guidance on labels and cylinder test rings.

BCGA Leaflet 10 provides advice for licensees when choosing a food grade gas in a good quality gas cylinder.

BCGA works closely with other Trade Associations such as the BBPA and the BFBi. We have jointly produced BCGA Leaflet 10, to encourage the safe use of gas cylinders and to raise awareness of the quality of food gas required in the hospitality industry. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and Local Authorities have all welcomed BCGA Leaflet 10.

BCGA will continue to support efforts to eradicate the unsafe and illegal supply of food gas cylinders.

Competence

All staff handling or using gas cylinders are required to have been given adequate information, instruction and training. Topics to be covered includes manual handling, storage requirements, an adequate knowledge of the beverage gas dispense system and the connection and disconnection of individual cylinders. Staff must be aware of the properties of the individual gases and safety data sheets must be available for all gases held.

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. A presentation to assist with training staff on food gases used in beverage dispense, is available here.

Working in confined spaces

All gases, with the exception of oxygen, can kill by asphyxiation. An enriched carbon dioxide atmosphere 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.

Food gas cylinders are often stored in a cellar, many of which are classed as a confined space. All storage areas shall be subject to a risk assessment.  Where it is identified that the storage area is a confined space, a specific confined space risk assessment must be carried out. Appropriate controls must be implemented as part of a safe system of work to protect all persons who may enter the space.

BCGA GN 9 offers guidance on the application of the Confined Spaces Regulations where food gases are located.

Committees

Within BCGA, food gases are the responsibility of Technical Sub-Committee (TSC) 5.  Members can access information on TSC5 via the Committee Meetings page.

Publications

BCGA provide several publications which include advice on managing gas cylinders safely. All BCGA publications are accessible via the Publications page.

Publications

CP32 The safe filling of food gas cylinders for beverage dispense. Revision 3: 2019

01/09/2019 Codes of Practice CP32

This Code of Practice addresses the safety, quality and operational issues necessary for the filling of gas cylinders with food gases for beverage dispense. The document covers safe filling practices, cylinder identification, handling, corrosion prevention and product quality.

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CP44 The storage of gas cylinders. Revision 1: 2022

17/06/2022 Codes of Practice CP44

This document defines the principles of safe practice for the storage of gas cylinders and bundles. It promotes the use of an outdoor store, with good natural ventilation, in a secure location, which meets the required separation distances.

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GN9 The application of the confined spaces regulations to beverage dispense. Revision 3: 2020

22/10/2020 Guidance Notes GN9

All gases, unless they contain sufficient 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. The Confined Spaces Regulations require 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 a confined space.

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GN14 Production, storage, transport and supply of gases for use in food. Revision 2: 2015

18/11/2015 Guidance Notes GN14

Provides advice to producers and suppliers of food gases on how to comply with the Food Safety Regulations. Companies that supply gases for food use have to meet specific legal obligations and are required to ensure food safety. The Guidance Note includes coverage of the production and supply of food gases in bulk, the use of cylinders and other transportable receptacles, dry ice production and supply, and the supply or use of on-site gas generators.

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GN30 The safe use of gases in the beverage dispense industry. Revision 1: 2017

05/01/2017 Guidance Notes GN30

Provides guidance to those who need to handle, use and store beverage gases. Addresses safety and operational issues associated with beverage gases, their use in cellars and beverage dispense pressure systems. The document covers cylinder identification, handling, use, corrosion prevention and product quality.

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GN33 The safe use of gases for leisure and catering. 2021

04/03/2021 Guidance Notes GN33

The use of gases is common in the leisure and catering industries. However, gases are hazardous and the user of the gases has a duty of care to all those who may be affected by their activities and they have to take all necessary safety measures to control all risks.

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TIS6 Gas cylinder identification. Label and colour code requirements. Revision 4: 2023

10/11/2023 Technical Information Sheets TIS6

An explanation of the content of a typical gas cylinder label and a guide to the colour codes used on gas cylinders.

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TIS9 Gas safety in the hospitality industry. Revision 3: 2018

20/12/2018 Technical Information Sheets TIS9

A safety checklist for those who purchase gas cylinders containing food quality gases for beverage dispense and/or manage those cylinders in the cellar.

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L10 Profit through quality. Good gas, good business. Revision 3: 2016

03/08/2016 Leaflets L10

Provides guidance to licensees on choosing safe cylinders providing the correct quality gas for use in beverage dispense.

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BFBi

14/09/2021

Gas Suppliers Equipment Code of Practice.

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