Distilleries and Breweries Begin Manufacturing Hand Sanitizer Amid National Shortages

Rhonda Gillett caps bottles of hand sanitizer at the Prairie Distillery, which has switched from making liquor to making hand sanitizer due to the coronavirus pandemic, in Guthrie, Okla., Saturday, March 21, 2020.

Rhonda Gillett caps bottles of hand sanitizer at the Prairie Distillery, which has switched from making liquor to making hand sanitizer due to the coronavirus pandemic, in Guthrie, Okla., Saturday, March 21, 2020. Associated Press

 

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Dozens of businesses across the country switched production from booze to sanitizer after two federal agencies relaxed manufacturing guidelines amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Distilleries and breweries across the country have begun manufacturing and distributing hand sanitizer after two federal agencies relaxed regulations amid reports of product shortages in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“We are aware of significant supply disruptions for alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Many manufacturers make hand sanitizers, and several have indicated that they are working to increase supply,” Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the FDA, said in a statement. “In the meantime, these guidances provide flexibility to help meet demand during this outbreak.”

The updated guidance, issued Friday, requires that manufacturers follow a recipe from the World Health Organization, adding only alcohol, glycerol, hydrogen peroxide and water. Distilleries and brewers must register their facilities with the FDA, but won’t have to wait for approval before beginning production. 

The FDA’s guidance came several days after the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau relaxed its regulations to allow beverage distillers to make denatured alcohol, the type of disinfectant used in the production of hand sanitizer. That type of production is “not normally permitted unless a distillery has an industrial manufacturing permit,” which is rare for commercial distilleries, according to the Michigan State Police.

Handwashing is the best prevention against the novel coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but hand sanitizer is a suitable backup, provided it contains at least 60% alcohol.

Dozens of distilleries in at least 42 states are now producing hand sanitizer, according to a list compiled by Craft Spirits Magazine. Some are distributing the final product for free in their communities, including Moonlight Distillery in Clayton, Georgia, which is manufacturing sanitizer with botanical gin infused with natural aloe vera.

“We are a community of huggers and hand shakers and we want to do our part to keep that warmth around but in as safe a manner as possible,” the distillery said in a Facebook post. “If those able would like to offer small donations for the sanitizer it is appreciated to help offset cost but not required. We will keep making the sanitizer as long as it is required and we can get the ingredients.”

Other companies announced their intention to donate sanitizer on larger scales. Anheuser-Busch said on Twitter it would work with the Red Cross and “other non-profit partners, to determine where the hand sanitizer will be needed most.” In Michigan, Coppercraft Distillery said it planned to manufacture and donate 10,000 gallons of sanitizer to area health-care providers.

“Times of crisis require each of us to determine how we can use our work for good,” Brian Mucci, the distillery’s CEO, said in a statement. “This is an opportunity to step into a need and assist our community, and we are honored to do so in such a practical way.”

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Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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