Japan’s milk industry has welcomed its government’s decision to revise an ordinance that prohibited the production and sale of liquid baby formula – reversing a ban that has permitted powdered product only.

The ministry of health, labour and welfare has announced new standards for ready-made liquid baby formula that can be stored outside refrigerators. Manufacturers will be permitted to produce and market new items after the ministry and Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency approve the products.

The Japan Dairy Association, which represents farmers, business and retailers across the nation’s milk supply chain, has been calling for the regulations to be changed since 2009. 

“This is going to mean more choice for Japanese consumers and increase the varieties that are available here,” said Keishiro Shin, a spokesperson for the Tokyo-based organisation.

“I had to use powdered formula when my children were young, and I think that many people will be glad to at least have an alternative.”

Consumer groups have also been calling for the regulations to be changed, noted Shin, partly because liquid formulas are expected to make raising children easier for working mothers but also because stocks of liquid baby food will be useful if a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, impact safe water supplies.

Historically, Japan has favoured powdered milk formula because it was easier to produce and more stable.

The dairy association has worked with the ministry to develop the regulations and conducted a series of tests on ingredients and packaging. Tests have used cans and pouches for between nine and 12 months, as well as in paper packaging for up to six months, at room temperature to determine use-by dates.

The association estimates the first domestically produced liquid baby formulas will not be on the shelves for another year, however.