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History

Denatonium Benzoate – the chemical name for Bitrex – was discovered in 1958 by Macfarlan Smith Ltd. During routine work on local anaesthetics, laboratory staff noticed that the powdered form of denatonium benzoate was extremely bitter. At the time, Brucine was commonly used as a denaturant – a way of making alcohol legally unfit for consumption. 

However, Bitrex was found to be much more potent and this new discovery was registered under the Bitrex trademark in the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA later that year in 1958.

Bitrex is now added to a wide range of household cleaners, pesticides, DIY and automotive products. Since being approved in the UK and US in the early 1960s, Bitrex has been officially recognised as the denaturant of choice in more than 40 countries.

Sales of the new denaturant began in the UK in 1960, and by 1963, customers included ICI, Rentokil, Gillette and Avon Products. The first use of Bitrex simply as a taste aversive was in a cream to prevent tail-biting in pigs.

Since then, Bitrex has been used in a variety of applications. One of the main uses is as a human aversive. Due to its overwhelming bitter taste, it is ideal for helping prevent accidental poisonings.