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Cornell Aids Distillers in Making Hand Sanitizer

Cornell AgriTech
New York State
Man in red shirt opening the hatch on a distilling equipment

In the battle to keep front-line health care workers, first responders, and essential employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 40 craft distilleries in New York state have stopped producing their signature spirits. Instead, distillers have turned to making a much-needed commodity: hand sanitizer. "For distilleries, it's a fascinating landscape right now," said Chris Gerling, senior extension associate in food science at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York. Gerling is helping distilleries across New York get answers to questions, find sources for sanitizer ingredients, make supply chain connections, locate affordable packaging—and learn new processes and policies. "It's been an interesting pivot for distilleries into this world," he said. “I have been parsing regulations and trying to keep distillers safe. Making hand sanitizer is not for hobbyists; this is for professionals." In the first half of March as pandemic fear grew, consumers wiped retail shelves clean and health care groups could not order enough. Distillers quickly realized that they could shore up the shortage.

Image: Chris Gerling, senior extension associate, checks the still located at Cornell AgriTech’s food science pilot plant in Geneva. Allison Usavage/Cornell University

Read the full story by Blaine Friedlander, Cornell Chronicle