A fatal accident led to a holiday whipped cream shortage

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Who among us has not lifted a canister of whipped cream, poised it above their open mouths, and squeezed down on the dispenser?

Those jubilant moments may be few and far between this holiday season due to a shortage of nitrous oxide gas, manufacturers said.

Nitrous oxide keeps canned whipped toppings like Reddi-wip delectably airy when they make it to the top of the pie or become the finishing touch on a perfect mug of hot chocolate.

The gas is in short supply due to a tragic accident in August involving two gas tankers and a nitrous oxide holding tank. The tanks exploded at a loading dock in a chemical plant in Florida, killing one worker. Additionally, a supplemental facility in Canada was shut down.

Airgas, the company which owns the chemical plant, supplies nitrous oxide to Conagra Foods – the company that manufactures Reddi-wip – as well as to several other customers.

Hence, Reddi-wip was not the only whipped cream product affected: In a statement to the Washington Post, Conagra representative Lanie Freidman said that "due to an industry-wide supply issue, there is currently a shortage of some whipped toppings, including Reddi-wip ... [and] private label and competitive whipped topping."

Meanwhile, the nitrous oxide that is in circulation will be prioritized for a different use – in dentists' offices.

In addition to keeping whipped cream fresh and delicious, nitrous oxide is the compound more commonly known as "laughing gas," which is used as an inhalation anesthetic for dental procedures.

According to the World Health Organization, nitrous oxide "reduces the requirement for other more potent and intrinsically more toxic anaesthetic agents" and "has a strong analgesic action."

The Purchasing Association of Private Clubs made clear in November that "as nitrous oxide becomes available in the coming months, medical contracted applications will get priority."

Meanwhile, it added, "Conagra expects to return to normal service levels by mid-January 2017."

Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report

Check out some holiday foods that don't require whipped cream:

8 PHOTOS
Holiday cookies anyone?
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Holiday cookies anyone?

Sweet Caraway Shortbread Cookies

"These cookies have cracked caraway seeds in the dough, and are topped with a ground caraway sugar to give them a fragrant, botanical taste that's distinctive and unique." - Holly Likes to Cook

Get the recipe here!

Chocolate Raspberry Cornmeal Cookie

"They are very subtle in flavor and sweetness, but quite nice. They were a hit with my two little ones, who said they were perfect for dipping in milk! These cookies are gluten-free." - Organically Thin

Get the recipe here!

Chocolate Linzer Cookies with Dulce De Leche

"There are so many reasons that Christmas is my favorite holiday but the fact that there are cookies specifically dedicated to it is definitely a contributing factor." - The Whole Bite

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Dark Chocolate Cookies with Dark Chocolate Fudge Filling

"Dark Chocolate Cookies with Dark Chocolate Fudge Filling: the perfect Christmas cookie to add to your holiday baking menu!" - Cooking and Beer

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Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookie

" Nothing against the chewy cookies, I like them too every now and then, but I would trade 1000 chewy cookies for 1 crispy cookie any time, any day!" - Olivia's Cuisine

Get the recipe here!

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

"Rich and decadent Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies are naturally gluten free and filled with two types of chocolate and creamy peanut butter!" - With Salt and Wit

Get the recipe here!

Ginger-Rose Shortbread

"The light and floral rose notes pair wonderfully with the spiciness of the ginger yet neither flavor overwhelms the other. I'm thinking ginger-rose should be the next big thing, move over matcha ;)" - Fix Feast Flair

Get the recipe here!

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