UK relaxes rules to speed up sanitiser production

Article by Adam Duckett

Shanae Ennis-Melhado /
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a shortage of hand sanitiser

THE UK Government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have relaxed rules over the manufacture of hand sanitisers to help increase production.

The moves follow a spike in demand for sanitiser to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. HSE is allowing manufacturers to sell hand sanitisers containing isopropanol without first obtaining product authorisation, as long as the product meets the relevant specifications provided by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO has published guidance on how to formulate sanitiser, the equipment needed, steps to take to produce it and the safety implications, which can be found here: WHO Guide to Local Production.

Companies wishing to place products on the market that meet these specifications should first email HSE, which is aiming to quickly respond to and approve requests. The full details on the relaxed rules and how to contact HSE are explained here: Manufacture and supply of biocidal hand sanitiser products during the outbreak.

Richard Daniels, HSE’s Chemicals Regulation Director, said: “Amid this national effort, we are working closely with other Government agencies, manufacturers and their trade associations to help remove obstacles to the manufacture and supply of safe and effective biocidal hand sanitiser products and reduce supply chain issues.

“While this action will enable manufacturers to place hand sanitiser products on the UK market quickly, we still expect them to meet their responsibilities to adhere to the correct standards which protect the people and the environment from potentially harmful chemical effects.”

The UK Government’s customs authority (HMRC) has also taken measures to speed up manufacture by removing the limits on denatured alcohol and duty-free spirits that can be used in the production of hand sanitiser. Guidance for producers, including those already producing sanitisers and licensed distillers, who want to denature ethanol to produce sanitiser is available here: Producing hand sanitiser and gel for coronavirus.

The moves have been praised by the British Contract Manufacturers and Packers Association (BCMPA). CEO Rodney Steel said: “We thoroughly applaud this move. Our members and the contract manufacturing and packing industry at large are experiencing unprecedented demand to produce hand sanitisers, bacterial wipes and other critical goods, with enquiries already up by over 100% in March alone compared with the whole of last year.

“The supply chain is critical at this time and, by introducing these measures, the Government has removed a number of potential barriers to the volume production of hand sanitiser products.”

Efforts to increase sanitiser production have seen chemicals major Ineos build two production plants in a week, and pledge to build another; while others including Brewdog, Pernod Ricard and LVMH have repurposed distilleries and cosmetics plants to produce sanitiser instead.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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