By: David Geller, CPCU, SCLA
In March, when it became apparent that hand sanitizer demand would outpace supply, distilleries across the United States began to use their onsite resources to make up for this gap and manufacture hand sanitizer. These efforts were supported when a pair of government agencies, per the Wall Street Journal, suggested that they would not take action against companies—including distilleries—that intended to produce alcohol-based hand sanitizers for use by consumers or health-care personnel.
While the vast majority of use cases for this repurposing likely has been beneficial, there have reportedly been some incidents that coincided with this transition, specifically pertaining to labeling and presentation.
For example, NPR reported that one distillery in Australia sold nine bottles of hand sanitizer and accidentally mislabeled it as gin. A few people ended up accidentally drinking these bottles, though there were no serious injuries reported. Conversely, in New Mexico, KRQE has reported that the New Mexico Department of Health recently cited three fatalities resulting from the consumption of hand sanitizer that contains methanol. The article does not mention whether or not the hand sanitizer was consumed because of a labeling issue.
Back in April, the Michigan Poison Center, according to the Detroit Free Press, pointed out that some distilleries were distributing hand sanitizer in beer cans and liquor bottles, which could potentially confuse the end consumer and lead to the accidental drinking of hand sanitizer.
And speaking of methanol, the New York Times has reported that the FDA has issued a guidance which warned consumers not to use nine different types of hand sanitizers because they contained methanol, a substance that reportedly can be toxic if absorbed through the skin or ingested. Some symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, headaches, permanent blindness, seizures, and other harmful effects.
Parade has a list of distilleries that have been selling hand sanitizer here.