TTB and FDA Relax Restrictions on the Production of Hand Sanitizers by Alcohol Manufacturers

By on March 23, 2020

With the increasing pace of the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the related emergent need to increase the available supply for hand sanitizer products across the United States, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), followed by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), have relaxed requirements for certain alcohol producers to produce these products without first amending their existing permits or obtaining prior formula approval.

On March 18, 2020, TTB came forward advising industry members that it has found it necessary and desirable to waive provisions of the internal revenue law to provide certain exemptions and authorizations for distilled spirits permittees to produce ethanol-based hand sanitizers to address the demand for such products during this time of national emergency. More specifically, TTB’s guidance provides:

  1. The exemptions are in effect through June 30, 2020.
  2. Alcohol fuel plants (AFPs) and beverage distilled spirits plants (DSPs) are exempted from the need to obtain additional permits or bonds to manufacture hand sanitizer or to supply ethanol to other TTB-authorized permit holders.
  3. All TTB-permitted DSPs are authorized to manufacture hand sanitizer without prior formula approval if the formula is consistent with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidance.
  4. Industrial alcohol user permittees may also use denatured ethanol to manufacture hand sanitizer consistent with the WHO guidance, and these permit holders are further exempted from the need to request approval to increase the quantities of ethanol they may procure.
  5. Hand sanitizers made with denatured alcohol are not subject to federal excise tax, but federal excise taxes will apply to hand sanitizer made with undenatured alcohol.

On March 20, 2020, the FDA—which also has jurisdiction over the production of hand sanitizing products—issued revised guidance that specifies that the FDA does not intend to take action against firms that prepare alcohol-based hand sanitizers for consumer use and for use as healthcare personnel hand rubs for the duration of the public health emergency declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services on January 31, 2020. More importantly, to be compliant with FDA’s guidance, the alcohol at issued must be denatured (not undenatured) and the packaging must be consistent with FDA’s Labeling for Ethyl Alcohol Formulation Consumer Use found at Appendix A to the guidance.

Finally, for those alcohol manufacturers (or others) that are not currently licensed DSPs or related permit holders, TTB is also expediting its processing and approval of these applications (in some instances within days) to allow for greater production and access to these vital products in our time of national need.

Alva C. Mather
Alva Mather is the global head of McDermott’s Regulatory Practice Group and a member of the Firm’s Management Committee, and heads the Alcohol Regulatory & Distribution Practice. As a nationally recognized go-to lawyer for alcohol beverage regulatory, commercial and M&A matters, clients say that Alva “comes to the situation with clear leadership and strong knowledge of the food and beverage industry.” She combines her extensive knowledge of the commercial and legal landscape as well as deep understanding of the beverage industry to help clients mitigate risk, respond to challenges, and capture and pursue new business opportunities. Read Alva Mather's full bio.