Japanese distilleries join fight against disinfectant shortage

Japanese distilleries are increasing the production of highly alcoholic beverages (over 70%), for use as a disinfectant in case of extreme need, due to the shortage of antiseptic gels due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kikisui Sake distillery, based in Kochi (west), released a drink with an alcohol content of 77% last Friday and has already received more than 10,000 orders and inquiries about the product, according to its president. Kazuki Haruta, in statements to the Kyodo news agency published this Thursday.

“I was surprised by the number of inquiries we also receive from hospitals and medical personnel,” said Haruta.

The company decided to produce the drink after discussing how it could contribute to the fight against the pathogen with the resources at hand and opted for it after the Ministry of Health assured in March that the drinks with an alcohol content of between 70% and 83% can be used as disinfectants, if there is no other option.

On April 10, Health approved the use of drinks with a high alcoholic concentration as a hand sanitizer due to the shortage of these products.

The Wakatsuru distillery in Toyama (center) has also started selling a product with 77% alcohol and in the Okinawa archipelago (southwest) Seifuku Distillery has started marketing a local rice drink called “awamori” but doubly so distilled.

The industrial-grade ethanol used in disinfectants comes from glucose, the same raw material that alcohol produces when fermented in products like high-quality Japanese “sochu”.

For their part, disinfectant manufacturers are working these days to increase production.

Leading firm Kenei Pharmaceutical of Osaka keeps its factories active all day, and Kao has increased its production by 20.

Although drinks with an alcohol concentration greater than 70% can be used as a disinfectant, the authorities warn of the risks of their intake and the misuse of homemade products and hoaxes such as the one that has left hundreds of dead in Iran due to consuming adulterated alcohol as an alleged remedy against coronavirus.

Japanese manufacturers have also warned of the misuse as a disinfectant of absolute ethanol, common in drugstores and used to clean electronic devices, which should only be used diluted with at least 20% water, which favors its sterilizing effect.


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