People warned not to spray ethyl alcohol on food in attempt to kill COVID-19

The Thai Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) is warning people not to spray ethyl alcohol directly onto their food, in the misbelief that the substance can kill the COVID-19 virus.

Ethyl alcohol, used in the manufacture of sanitizer gels among other things, is colourless in its original form, highly inflammable and is capable of killing pathogens, but it is not suitable for human consumption.

According to the TFDA, there are different grades of alcohol, including food-grade alcohol, which is used in the food processing industry, especially in the production of raw materials, or used as a food ingredient in very small amounts, with the exception of alcoholic drinks.

Ornsurang Teerawat, a food standards expert at the TFDA, said that food-grade alcohol must meet the standards set by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

Food producers, which have to use the food-grade ethyl alcohol as solvent, must also meet the JECFA standard and register with the TFDA, she said, adding that the TFDA does not permit the use of ethyl alcohol to kill germs in food.

She also said that there has never been a single case of COVID-19 infection contracted from contaminated food and the virus can easily killed by heating it to 56oC for 30 minutes.

The normal heat used to cook rice is easily enough to kill the virus, she added.

Food preparation areas and other hard surfaces can be wiped with a disinfectant containing chlorine, chloroform, peracetic acid or 75% alcohol to keep them free of pathogens like the COVID-19 virus.

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