Creative disinfectant: system-relevant distillers.

Once a liver scare, now a virus scare: instead of gin and grain, spirits producers now produce raw alcohol for disinfectants.

Once upon a time there was beer – breweries now also brew ethanol for disinfectants Photo: dpa

Disinfectant instead of herbal liquor: Mast-Jagermeister SE in Wolfenbuttel has donated 50,000 liters of alcohol to the Clinic. Instead of herbal schnapps, the alcohol will be processed into disinfectant in the hospital’s in-house pharmacy, Jagermeister spokesman Andreas Lehmann tells the taz. "The amount is enough for disinfectant for six months. In normal times, it would last for 1.5 years," Lehmann said.

For the donation, authorities would have exempted the herbal liqueur maker from tax. Ethanol, the chemical name for pure alcohol, is the main ingredient for disinfectants.

The corona crisis has led to an extreme increase in demand for disinfectants in Germany and worldwide, partly because many people are stocking up on them as a preventive measure. Manufacturers are unable to meet the demand. In normal times, the production of disinfectants in pharmacies is not permitted. Only a few companies are allowed to process alcohol, and customs officials keep a close eye on them.

The state levies high taxes on alcohol. For a bottle of Korn with 0.7 liters and 40 percent alcohol, 3.65 euros go to the treasury. Companies that produce alcohol for medical purposes, for the chemical industry or for laboratories are largely exempt from the tax. To ensure that no laboratory worker gets the idea of drinking the high-proof raw material or engaging in shadow trading with it, industrial ethanol is made undrinkable by additives.

Non-taxed alcohol is a scarce commodity

In the wake of the Corona crisis, the federal authorities issued temporary general rulings on customs and alcohol taxes, allowing more producers to produce and directly market industrial alcohol. This main ingredient in disinfectant solutions is in short supply, but can in principle be produced domestically. The authorities want to enable as many disinfectants as possible to be produced, along with the necessary starting materials.

Pharmacies have always been able to produce disinfectants by hand, but an EU regulation has so far prohibited them from doing so. That, too, has been suspended for a limited period. With the exception of ethanol, the other raw materials are "currently still available through the normal supply channels for chemicals," says Kai-Peter Siemsen, president of the Hamburg Chamber of Pharmacists, to the taz. But non-taxed alcohol is in short supply. According to Siemsen, the Hamburg Distilling Company, producer of the "Knut Hansen Gin," now supplies this for Hamburg pharmacies.

The pharmacy president says: "We Hamburgers are moving closer together in this crisis. The corona pandemic requires unusual and also creative approaches to solutions." But help from the gin producer alone is not enough. The Pharmaceutical Institute of Hamburg University, several breweries and bioethanol producers are also supplying alcohol to pharmacies in Hamburg.

Local media report that the schnapps company Nordbrand in Nordhausen, Thuringia, the sparkling wine producer Rotkappchen in Freyburg in Saxony-Anhalt and the schnapps distillery Schraml from Erbendorf in Bavaria also produce raw alcohol for local pharmacies in addition to their actual product range.

Klosterfrau Melissa Spirit

So that it does not remain with the manufacture production of the disinfectant solutions in the pharmacies, the manufacturer of Klosterfrau Melissengeist has temporarily converted a production plant to hand disinfectants since April, local media report. In a circular to pharmacies, the company had pointed out that Klosterfrau Melissengeist also has an antiviral effect. However, this applies to many high-proof alcoholic beverages.

Sugar producers are also making the switch. Pharmacists from all over Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania line up in front of the sugar factory in Anklam when ethanol is dispensed once a week. This is produced during the fermentation of sugar. Buyers have to show their operating license as pharmacists and bring their own ballpoint pen to sign the delivery bill to avoid infection.

The company Nordzucker also produces alcohol for disinfectants at its site in Saxony-Anhalt – instead of biofuel for vehicles as before. "Due to the increased demand, we are making all the bioethanol that is still available available exclusively for processing companies for disinfectant production," spokesman Sven Weber tells the taz.

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