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Health ministry releases guidelines for domestic production of liquid infant formula

This Aug. 9, 2016 file photo shows examples of liquid infant formula produced outside of Japan, with an American-made brand on the left and the remaining two manufactured in Finland. (Mainichi)

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare released guidelines for manufacturing liquid infant formula on March 12, setting the stage for its production in Japan, where it is currently not in distribution.

If the milk passes evaluation tests by the Cabinet Office's Food Safety Commission, the health ministry could issue a revised ministry order outlining baseline rules as early as this summer, allowing for domestic production. While a test period is required, the new liquid formula could hit shelves in two years.

Unlike powdered formula, liquid formula does not require any preparation such as being dissolved in boiled water and has a long shelf life, making it popular overseas. In order to lessen the burden of child-rearing and to prepare for disaster situations, citizens groups and other organizations had been pushing for the creation of standards to allow the production of the milk domestically.

In the guidelines released by the ministry, the liquid formula is defined as "processed liquid milk." It must have the same nutritional value as powdered milk and be heat-sterilized at 120 degrees Celsius for four minutes in order to be shelf-stable. According to data submitted to the ministry by the Japan Dairy Industry Association for the creation of production standards for the milk, the envisaged packaging for the milk includes cans, retortable pouches and cartons.

The recommended use-by date for the cans and pouches would be from nine months to one year and six months for the cartons. The color of the milk in the cans and the pouches would be a little darker than powdered milk, and the milk in the cartons would become slightly browner during storage, but there would be no change in taste.

According to a dairy association representative where several companies are considering manufacturing the product, "Once production is allowed, because there will be a quality test period, the earliest that sales can begin is after two years." The price is reportedly projected to be slightly higher than powdered milk.

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