Midleton distils a lifesaver - Project to supply hand gel to HSE set to hit 1m bottles

The one millionth bottle of hand sanitiser is about to roll off the production line within days thanks to a partnership between a global distillery giant and an animal nutrition lab, both based in Cork.
Midleton distils a lifesaver - Project to supply hand gel to HSE set to hit 1m bottles
Midleton Distillery Production Director Tommy Keane with some bottles of the company's hand-sanitising gel. Photo: Cathal Noonan

The curve may have been flattened and restrictions are easing from today but work to support the frontline in the war against Covid-19 goes on.

The one millionth bottle of hand sanitiser is about to roll off the production line within days thanks to a partnership between a global distillery giant and an animal nutrition lab, both based in Cork.

And Irish Distillers, the Midleton-based distillery which makes Jameson, says it is committed to maintaining its supply of pure alcohol to Mervue Laboratory in Watergrasshill for the production of the hand-gel for as long as possible.

"As is the case around the world, the demand for alcohol gel is at unprecedentedly high levels in Ireland and is set to remain so for the foreseeable period," a spokesman for Irish Distillers said.

"We are committed to maintaining supply to the maximum levels possible for as long as possible. We hope that in doing so, it helps our healthcare professionals in their efforts to protect us all.”

The partnership was forged in March when Mervue Labs director William Twomey spoke with his local pharmacist, Ciaran O’Sullivan, about what was then an emerging shortage of sanitising hand-gel.

Stocks for frontline staff were dwindling fast and as countries shut their borders, the raw materials for the product were in short supply.

Mr Twomey decided to divert some of his team and their normal manufacturing and production facilities to address the crisis.

Mervue partnered with Irish Distillers to secure large-scale quantities of pure alcohol free of charge in an effort to establish a high-volume supply line to the HSE.

They both worked with the HSE and the Department of Agriculture and within a week, they had produced 100,000 250ml bottles of hand sanitiser for distribution to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

The one millionth bottle is expected to roll off production lines over the next two days.

Mr Twomey said they know the fight against Covid-19 will be a marathon, not a sprint.

"This has been a real team effort of people who care for their country and want to do what we can at a time of national crisis," he said.

The company has received a lot of calls from various businesses about buying the hand sanitising gel but said while it is still focusing on fulfilling its duty to frontline healthcare workers, it is trying to source extra capacity to supply others.

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