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Osaka man develops horsemeat-based emergency food product edible for pets, humans

Akihiko Yasui is seen sharing a bag of SONAE with his beloved dog Sakura, in Habikino, Osaka Prefecture, on May 24, 2019. (Mainichi/Masaki Ishikawa)

HABIKINO, Osaka -- A local seller of processed horse meat and other goods has developed a new emergency food supply product called "SONAE," which he says is good enough for man or beast, as it can be consumed safely by pets and young children.

The idea for the food source came to Akihiko Yasui, 42, head of Yasui stores, after his experiences when Typhoon Jebi lashed the west Japan Kansai region in September 2018. The product went on sale this month. "Households that have pets and young children can protect themselves from hunger just by having SONAE alone," he said.

Typhoon Jebi brought powerful winds and heavy rain with it as it moved north across west Japan over Shikoku and Kinki, causing serious widespread damage including slamming a tanker into a connecting bridge to Kansai International Airport.

Glass at Yasui's shop was smashed by the storm, with damage also sustained to the roof and veranda. Although his nearby home was left unscathed, he remembers being worried at the time as to whether he would be able to properly take care of his pet Chihuahua, Sakura, had they been required to stay at an evacuation center. His concerns led him to develop the emergency supply product.

A bowl of SONAE is seen in this photo provided by Akihiko Yasui.

With an interest in disaster prevention plans available to households with pets, Yasui took the level 3 course for a pet disaster management qualification. During the course he learned the rules for life as an evacuee with pets, and learned that many evacuation centers do not have adequate food supplies available to the animals.

The main ingredient in SONAE is horsemeat, which Yasui thought would be appropriate because of its low potential for causing allergies. He received advice from professionals including a dietician and a vet on the amount of ingredients to use and other factors.

With their input, the completed sample product became a mixture of 12 finely chopped and mixed ingredients, including brown rice, cheese, cabbage, carrot and shiitake mushroom.

He then tasked the mass production of SONAE to Ajikikko & Awajishima Genmai Club, a food manufacturer which uses its special heat processing technology to create preserved foods that can be eaten without preparation. Based in Sumoto, Hyogo Prefecture, west Japan, the company started developing its products after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.

When Yasui gave the food to Sakura, she polished it off quickly. It has a texture like a soft risotto, and the additive free ingredients give it a light taste. Yasui says it can even be used in the place of baby foods for young children.

Bags of SONAE, the pet-and-baby friendly evacuation food developed by Akihiko Yasui, are seen in Habikino, Osaka Prefecture, on May 24, 2019. (Mainichi/Masaki Ishikawa)

According to the Ministry of the Environment, in the disaster prevention plans municipalities develop in accordance with the circumstances of their local areas, many specified evacuation centers do not have anything in writing on whether to accept pets. In the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes, there were situations in which food supplies for pets fell short.

"It's very difficult for people to store different disaster prevention foods for adults, children and pets, all to be used immediately after a disaster takes place. If you use SONAE, you can evacuate quickly, lightly, and with stock in hand," said Yasui.

The products can be stored for around a year. From August, single bags of SONAE weighing around 250 grams are being sold for 864 yen both online and at Yasui's shop in Osaka.

(Japanese original by Masaki Ishikawa, Osaka City News Department)

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