Eye On Craft: Distillery Safety
When it comes to safety, large distilleries have the resources needed to study and comply with work safety and food safety regulations. Large distilleries also operate under the scrutiny of environmental, health and tax agencies, so they are better prepared to survive audits and to deliver distillates that are not toxic to their consumers.
Small, or craft distillers, on the other hand, are usually under-staffed, under-financed and often unaware of regulations designed to keep them and their consumers safe. This section, named “Eye on Craft ” is aimed at this group, but also at their consumers. Educating both segments of the chain will hopefully result in increased awareness and ultimately in increased compliance.
Chapter I: PVC and Ethanol
Polyvinyl Chloride, usually abbreviated PVC, is the world’s third most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer. It is very popular because it is inexpensive to fabricate and its uses are numerous. When it comes to distilleries, however, it should be handled with great care, as the vinyl chloride can be dissolved by high proof ethanol. And why is it a problem to have dissolved vinyl chloride in one’s alcohol? Because it is a known carcinogen! So, if you are a craft distiller and you have PVC pipes or hoses and you are using them to collect or transfer your distillate, stop right away, discard the contaminated alcohol and replace PVC pipes and hoses with metal pipes or with food grade EPDM hoses.
If you are a bartender, distributor, brand ambassador, etc., keep an eye open for PVC sightings at craft distillers. It is OK for them to have PVC around, for handling filtered water and waste water, for example, but it should not be in contact with the alcohol coming out of the still!
One common misconception is that “food-grade” PVC is safe for handling alcohol, which is not true.
Let’s keep everyone safe!