As hospitals and medical stores are distressed about the low supply of hand sanitizers amidst the COVID-19 spread, federal regulators are still imposing regulations to prevent ethanol producers from providing millions of gallons of alcohol that can be transformed into the germ-killing hand sanitizer. The main issue for the ethanol industry is that most of the plants in the market manufacture food-grade ethanol, which is a grade below the highest pharmaceutical grade products and doesn’t fall under the safety guidelines of the FDA. As the plants are not certified to comply with the strict production standards that are designed to safeguard the quality of food ingredients, medicines, and dietary supplements, the FDA is not keen on allowing alcohol to be used as a raw material for making a product that can be applied on the skin. The Food and Drug Association considered this step to be evaluative as there were several reported cases of fatal poisoning among young children who accidentally consumed hand sanitizers.
But for the ethanol producers across the globe, relaxed rules would allow them to step in and help during the times of a global health crisis. The FDA has relaxed the restrictions on the types of alcohol that can be utilized by the companies to manufacture hand sanitizers. According to the latest FDA guidelines, ethanol that is made at plants that produce fuel ethanol can be used if it consists of no additional chemicals and can ensure the purity of water sanitation of the equipment. It declared that it will grant approval to each plant on an individual basis only if it passes the quality control specifications according to the FDA. At present, around 15 to 20 ethanol plants have already responded to the new and revised FDA guidelines and have started manufacturing alcohol for the hand sanitizer companies. The distillers that produce alcoholic drinks are provided with certain regulatory waivers by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, allowing them to manufacture hand sanitizers.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, which represents several large and small distillers, appreciated the Congress for easing the taxes on distillers who make hand sanitizers. But the council is still urging the FDA to update its rules and let the distillers use un-denatured alcohol for the making of hand sanitizers. The bill passed asks the distillers to follow the FDA’s guidance if they want to receive the tax breaks. The FDA was highly applauded for waiving several norms and regulations lately to propel the production of key medical supplies such as COVID-19 tests, ventilators, hand sanitizers, and others.
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