Fears over the safety of natural refrigeration systems are easing, with new research showing that retailers now see them as no more dangerous and just as reliable as HFC alternatives.

Despite several recent supermarket evacuations following incidents involving CO2-based systems, retailers including Tesco are reported to be significantly increasing their investment in such refrigeration.

According to a study by researchers Shecco, unveiled at this week’s EuroShop retail trade fair in Düsseldorf, uptake among 50 leading food retailers in Western and Northern Europe had increased to the point where 63.6% have implemented the technology in-store.

The survey, commissioned by refrigeration giant Carrier, claimed food retailers now saw natural refrigerants as outperforming HFC refrigerants in efficiency.

“Food retailers now see safety of natural refrigerants on a par with HFCs,” said a Carrier spokesman.

Fionnuala Walravens, senior campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency, claimed natural refrigerants were up to 4,000 times less harmful to the planet than HFC systems.

Last June, Tesco was forced to evacuate one of its new “eco-friendly” naturally refrigerated stores, in Newbury, after a leak. Previous incidents involving natural refrigeration included a burst pipe at a Tesco Extra near Salford, which caused minor injuries to several people in December 2010.

However, last month UK retailers strengthened their backing for natural refrigeration after agreeing to a new BRC commitment under its better Retailing Climate initiative. Under the initiative, they committed to reducing emissions from refrigeration gases 80% by 2020 relative to floorspace and to begin phasing out HFC refrigerants by 2015.