The government is expected to lift a de facto ban on the production and sales of liquid baby formula possibly in the summer, with the health ministry unveiling on Monday draft safety rules for the product.
While liquid formula is widely used abroad for its convenience, the production and sales of such a product is not allowed in Japan due to the absence of government safety standards. Powder formula, which needs to be dissolved in hot water, is commonly used instead.
(Photo courtesy of Kunihiko Sawada)
But the ministry has started discussions to set the standards for liquid formula after its convenience during natural disasters was highlighted in Japan in 2016, when powerful earthquakes hit the southwestern Kumamoto Prefecture.
At that time, Finland provided the formula as emergency aid free of charge. The merit of liquid baby formula is that it can be used even in cases of a water outage.
During a meeting of a panel on food sanitation issues on Monday, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare presented the draft standards, which have been worked out based on a study conducted by the Japan Dairy Industry Association.
In the study, the association confirmed that liquid formula, created with similar ingredients used in powder formula, can be safely consumed for up to one year by preserving it in a sterilized condition inside paper and can containers at a temperature of 25 C.
The color of the liquid turned brownish, but no abnormalities were detected regarding taste and nutrition.
The draft standards will be put to further discussions at a food safety panel under the Cabinet Office. The government is then likely to revise the relevant ministry ordinances in the summer at the earliest.
It is expected to take a few years until the actual products will hit the market as a trial period is expected to be set aside to confirm the appropriateness of the best-before date, according to health ministry officials.
According to the Japan Dairy Industry Association, some major dairy makers have shown an interest in making liquid formula and are likely to start developing products once ministry ordinances are revised.