Tiny fish-shaped soy sauce bottles that usually come with bento have been converted for use to hold sanitizer, after a maker of the product was overstocked amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has caused people to eat more meals at home.

The sanitizer-containing bottles are distributed for free, mainly to restaurants selling takeout meals.

Ohishiya, based in the city of Konosu, Saitama Prefecture, and the maker of the bottles, had held a large amount of inventory because of order cancellations in Japan following a drop in demand for bento — including ekiben sold at train stations — and closures of food plants in Europe, major clients for the firm, amid widespread lockdowns.

Meanwhile, Tokyo-based electronics firm Clear Electron started selling sanitizer in March, but low name recognition was an issue for the company.

Ohishiya and Clear Electron teamed up for the project based on a proposal from an advertising company at a time when more eateries had started to offer takeout and delivery services following business suspension requests from authorities.

The soy sauce bottles usually have red or green caps. For sanitizer products, however, the bottle cap color was changed to blue, which is often used to represent cleanliness.

The companies advise people to use the sanitizer to clean the surfaces of tables and other areas before eating meals.

The sanitizer poses no health hazard because it is made entirely of natural ingredients, according to the companies.

Over 200,000 fish-shaped bottles have been produced to hold hand sanitizer. They have been provided to some 50 eateries, mainly in Tokyo.

The companies have received over 80 inquiries about the bottles.

“We wanted to do what we can as the whole world is fighting the new coronavirus,” Ohishiya President Satoru Saito said.

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