Japan to relax sale of unrefrigerated biologically clean tofu in July

TOKYO, June 28 – The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare of Japan is going to lift the ban on the sale of tofu at room temperature partially in mid-July at the earliest, according to a report released on June 27, 2018. At present, tofu sellers in Japan are required to sell only refrigerated tofu, but the ministry is to permit the sale of unrefrigerated one only if it’s packed in an aseptic container. Some of the tofu producers today already have the technology to make biologically clean tofu suitable for selling at room temperature, and the change in the law may support their extended efforts to market the soy products via the Internet and to overseas customers.

Technology to make filled tofu in an aseptic container will avoid bacterial contamination of the materials and the manufacturing processes and allow tofu producers to make tofu that can last for longer without the use of preservatives and additives.

For the relatively shorter shelf life, tofu today is sold only at supermarkets and retail stores that can accommodate refrigerators. For the same reason, some of the off-price stores often sell it at an unreasonably low price. However, when the restriction is lifted, the producers can diversify their outlets even to include stores on the Web, while the soybean farmers can expect to earn a higher income.

Moreover, the producers can expect the sale of tofu for a wider variety of purposes, for example as emergency food, or countries.

Two Japanese food producers, Sato-no-Yuki Shokuhin and Morinaga Milk, have already been selling filled tofu in a long-life packet overseas. However, these products have been receiving little attention in the domestic market as the ministry prohibit the sale of them in Japan.

Thanks to the growing popularity of Japanese food abroad, the number of overseas Japanese restaurants is increasing sharply. According to Zentoren (All Japan Tofu Association), “when the regulation is eased, domestic tofu manufacturers are highly likely to enter the new markets, and an increasing number of them are expected to go further to explore the new opportunities overseas.”

The sale of unrefrigerated tofu was banned in 1974 to prevent food poisoning (while admitting the direct sale of tofu on carts or vehicles by local tofu producers as an exceptional case). However, as the technology to sell tofu safely at room temperature is now established, the industry has been calling for the regulatory reform.

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