National

Japanese municipalities and consumers slowly coming around to liquid baby formula

JIJI

Following the government’s lifting of a ban on the production and sale of liquid baby formula in the country in August last year, more and more local governments are stockpiling supplies for use during an emergency in place of powdered products.

Some local governments have been buying liquid formula, which can be stored for up to a year at room temperature, in bulk after Japanese food-makers started to enter the market.

However, liquid formula, common in northern Europe and other countries, was not popular immediately after the removal of the ban.

After a powerful earthquake hit Hokkaido in September last year, the Hokkaido Prefectural Government issued a notice calling on local municipalities to be careful about distributing liquid formula to affected residents with babies. The notice read, “There has been no precedent of liquid formula being used in Japan, and hygiene management is difficult.”

At the time, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government sent a total of 1,050 bottles of liquid baby formula to five quake-hit Hokkaido towns.

But an official of the municipal government of Hidaka, one of the five towns, said, “As the notice said there has been no precedent, we didn’t want to supply it to residents.”

In the end, all but one of the 1,050 bottles were discarded without being used.

“I had never seen liquid baby formula, and I didn’t know what they were when we received the supplies” from the Tokyo government, an official of the town of Abira said.

But the situation began to shift after major food-makers Ezaki Glico Co. and Meiji Co. launched liquid formula products this spring, with child-rearing young couples increasingly showing interest in the ready-to-drink products.

In July, the Mie Prefectural Government introduced liquid formula for its emergency stockpiles instead of powdered formula, becoming the first prefecture to do so. Other local governments followed suit.

“We assume that liquid baby formula will be used at times, including when it is difficult to get clean and safe water immediately after disasters,” a Mie Prefecture official said.

But hurdles remain before liquid baby formula can be stockpiled widely for emergencies.

“Costs to introduce liquid formula are twice as high as those for powdered formula,” said a disaster management official in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture.

“We know it’s more convenient, but we need to consider whether to introduce it also from a financial point of view,” the official said.

The Hirosaki Municipal Government will initially buy a small volume of liquid baby formula and then consider whether to fully introduce it, according to the official.

“If liquid formula becomes more popular, it would likely become more affordable,” the official added.

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