Japan's de facto ban on liquid baby formula may be lifted by summer


The government is expected to lift a de facto ban on the production and sale of liquid baby formula — possibly in the summer — following the health ministry’s unveiling Monday of draft safety rules governing the product.

While liquid formula is widely used abroad for its convenience, its production and sale are 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.

Use of formula donated by Finland as emergency aid during the 2016 Kumamoto Prefecture earthquakes prompted the ministry to begin studying ways to set standards for domestic production of the liquid form. Its merits were made apparent in the aftermath of the disaster as its use was not dependent on the availability of clean water.

During a meeting Monday of a panel looking into food sanitation issues, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare presented the draft standards, which were compiled based on a study conducted by the Japan Dairy Industry Association.

In the study, the association confirmed that sterilized liquid formula made using ingredients similar to those found in powder formula can be safely consumed for up to one year if it is stored properly and at a temperature no higher than 25 degrees Celsius. The color of the liquid turned brownish, but no abnormalities were detected regarding taste and nutrition.

The draft standards will be further discussed during a Cabinet Office food safety panel meeting. The government will then likely revise the relevant ministry ordinances in the summer at the earliest.

It is expected to take a few years before actual products hit the market, as trials must be conducted to confirm proper expiration dates, health ministry officials said.

According to the Japan Dairy Industry Association, some major dairy makers have shown an interest in marketing liquid formula and are likely to start developing products once ministry standards are set.