Here’s Why The Reddi-Wip Shortage Is Extra Sad

Image courtesy of iwantamonkey

If you’ve been looking for canned whipped cream from Reddi-wip or other brands for your holiday celebrations, you may have come home empty-handed. Canned whipped cream is in short supply right now, and it’s for a reason that is much sadder than the mere lack of whipped cream.

As you run a hand mixer in a bowl of heavy cream the old-fashioned way this coming week, or use up your last can of Reddi-wip on holiday desserts, keep in your thoughts the 32-year-old employee of the company Airgas who was killed this summer while filling a tanker with nitrous oxide. The Atlantic found the details of the accident, the investigation, and how a tragic accident leads to a nationwide shortage of whipped cream cans.

He worked at a purification plant next door to a nylon factory, since the gas is a byproduct of nylon manufacturing. The tanker that he was filling exploded, and that explosion punctured another tank in turn, causing two explosions and killing the worker.

The accident is still under investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, and the Airgas plant in Florida remains closed. It had been open for 30 years with no accidents until this year. An investigator with the Chemical Safety Board told the Atlantic that the explosion was most likely caused by residual heat in the pump used to fill tanks, which set off a chemical reaction that led to the explosion. Static electricity was also a possible cause.

Having one of its purification plants offline means that Airgas isn’t at full capacity, and the company says that it’s prioritizing the medical customers who need the gas for use as an anesthetic over the food businesses that use it to make whipped cream squirt out of a can.

ConAgra, maker of Reddi-wip, announced that it was stopping production until it could get a source for food-grade nitrous oxide. “As of this week, there is no food grade capacity available in North America,” the company told a trade association back in November.

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