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Hard to be allergic to easy-to-make dishes

The party menu jointly developed by four food companies

By Sayuri Nitani and Ayako Fujimoto / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WritersAn increasingly diverse range of processed foods for people with food allergies are coming on the market, and a group of four companies as well as a foundation are helping consumers take advantage of them. Their activities include jointly developing recipes that use the products and putting free videos online demonstrating how to make such dishes.

Making food tends to be more work for people with allergies and their families, and the companies hope their efforts can lessen the burden.

The number of people with food allergies is increasing, particularly among children. According to a 2013 survey conducted by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry at public elementary, junior high and high schools across the nation, 4.5 percent of all students had food allergies. This represented an increase of nearly 2 percentage points from 2004.

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  • Courtesy of Nipponham Foundation for the Future of Food

    A screenshot of a video demonstrating how to use soy milk and pumpkin with kanten agar to create an item resembling a boiled egg

Amid this situation, food companies have worked to develop products that don’t contain such allergens as eggs, milk or wheat.

Jointly creating recipes

Otafuku Sauce Co. based in Hiroshima, NH Foods Ltd. in Osaka, and Nagatanien Co. and House Foods Corp. based in Tokyo have jointly developed recipes that combine the four makers’ allergen-free products and posted them on their respective websites since January.

This is said to be the first time that rival companies in the industry have come together to develop recipes.

The quartet had received comments from people with allergies and their families, such as “there are few ingredients we can use and our menu gets stuck in a rut” and “cooking without the problematic ingredients is not feasible.”

Each company had published recipes on its websites using proprietary products, but each experienced drawbacks such as developing a limited number of recipes in its respective specialized areas, as well as ones requiring a lot of effort to make.

Their recent project involves six party menu items, including pancakes, open-faced sandwiches and bite-sized okonomiyaki pancakes. “We worked it so the recipes would be easy to make,” said a House Foods staff member in charge of working on the recipes. “We’d like people with allergies and people without them, grown-ups and children, to enjoy eating together.”

In addition to increasing the variety of recipes in the future, the companies are also planning such efforts as tasting events. Other activities under consideration include developing a website to jointly offer related information and seeking to have supermarkets set up special areas featuring products for people with food allergies.

Easy-to-follow videos

The Nipponham Foundation for the Future of Food, a public interest incorporated foundation set up by NH Foods in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, holds a cooking contest using foods aimed at people with food allergies. Last December, it began posting free videos on its website explaining how to make winning dishes from past editions of the contest.

The contest has been held annually since fiscal 2015, and the foundation had been putting up winning recipes with pictures and text on its website. However, making foods that use alternative ingredients look more like their standard versions often requires unusual preparation methods, and it’s difficult to get a sense of how to make the dishes just from written information.

This prompted the foundation to create the videos, so more people would be able to prepare the dishes.

There are 60 winning recipes available from the contests from fiscal 2015 through fiscal 2017. A recipe for “rice flour ramen” from the student division of the contest in fiscal 2017 uses soy milk and pumpkin with kanten agar to resemble a boiled egg topping.

Plastic wrap is put in a small container and kanten agar is combined with soy milk for the “white portion.” This is cooled to harden, and then the center is scooped out and filled with agar made with pumpkin. The process becomes obvious when seen in the video.

“We hope people can get the knack for making it and add another item to their repertoire,” said an official in charge at the foundation.

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