From Bio Journal - February 2012

A series of illegal distributions of unapproved GM food additives

On 4 December 2011, it became clear that food additives (Inosine 5'-Monophosphate Disodium Salt Hydrate or 5f-IMP.2Na and Guanosine 5'-monophosphate disodium salt or 5f-GMP.2Na) manufactured using GM bacteria that had not undergone a safety assessment under the Food Sanitation Act had been imported into Japan and distributed in large quantities. According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), imports of these additives have amounted to between 600 and 700 tons annually and have been incorporated into sauces, kamaboko (a rubbery food made from steamed fish meal) and ham to give them the flavour of shiitake (Japanese mushrooms) or katsuobushi (dried bonito shavings). The total amount of this food is estimated to have been 1.8 to 2 million tons per year. MHLW has ordered the suspension of imports and sales of the additives and has begun procedures for safety assessments. Despite the illegal distribution, the ministry has not demanded a suspension of sales of the processed food already distributed.

On 22 December 2011, further unapproved GM food additives, riboflavin and xylanase, were found to have been distributed. In the past three years 36 tons of riboflavin, used in cold beverages as a colouring agent and nutrition supplement, and 0.6 tons of xylanase, used as an enzyme in bread-making, were found to have been used. MHLW has ordered the suspension of imports and sales of the GM xylanase as well as the suspension of sales and the recall of processed foods manufactured with the GM additive. Although the suspension of imports and sales of GM riboflavin have been ordered, the ministry did not seek the suspension of sales or the recall of the processed foods.

See BJ February 2010 for Japanese attitudes toward GM food additives

See BJ September 2011 for more information about GM additives used in Japan

(MHLW 2011/12/5, 22)

GM papaya in Japanese shops for the first time

GM papaya grown in Hawaii have appeared in Japanese shops for the first time. (See BJ October 2011) Many supermarkets are not putting the papaya on sale due to dislike of GM food by consumers, but ten stores in the American-based, members only Costco Wholesale Japan, Ltd., in Sapporo, Hyogo and so on are stocking the papaya. This GM papaya is the first fruit intended to be eaten raw that has gone on sale in Japan.

(Mainichi Shinbun and others, 2011/12/09)

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