On Sunday March 18, 2012, in Tokyo, we established the Dairy Products Health Science Council, an organization consisting of researchers and other experts in the field of health science, in an effort to help improve the nation’s health. The aims set out in the council's founding statement are to produce academic evidence relating to the health and nutritional benefits of milk and dairy products, as an established basic food group, to carry out research linking to modern-day lifestyle issues, and to widely distribute intelligence and information gained through research activities to consumers as well as medical and nutritional professionals.
The council is structured as a third-party organization consisting of researchers and other experts conducting reliable, independent research. It was established with a membership of 27. Eight executives were appointed, including Chairman Hajime Orimo (President of the Japan Osteoporosis Foundation President) and Vice Chairman Teiji Nakamura (President of Kanagawa University of Human Services and Honorary Chairman of the Japan Dietetic Association), as well as nineteen chairs and members of four subcommittees totaling 19 (concurrent positions held by executives), two expert committee members and six advisors.
The council's main activities include (1) evaluating and identifying new value from previous commissioned studies, (2) conducting commissioned studies based on research themes in four fields, (3) conducting specific studies in line with the conference’s medium- to long-term research strategy, (4) expressing evidence according to specific targets, (5) organizing research seminars to present results and findings, and (6) gathering and disseminating the latest nutritional and health-related information from around the world.
As the lifestyles, values and needs of the Japanese people continue to change with the times, our diets have also changed dramatically, as people have started to eat more Western food, over-indulge and eat out more often. As a result, the nutritional and health-related issues facing Japanese people have changed in diverse ways, too.
People have started to eat nutritionally imbalanced diets, due to fussy eating, and eat at irregular times, as a result of skipping meals, especially in recent years. These are becoming increasingly serious social issues, leading to a surge in obesity, weight loss and lifestyle-related diseases.
The market is changing too, due in part to Japan’s dwindling birth rate and aging population, and people are becoming increasingly health conscious, paving the way for a steady stream of health food and processed food products. In our increasingly advanced information society, we are subject to information overload. With this trend, now more than ever, consumers need to be better equipped to manage their own lives, with regard to nutrition and health, and to make sensible food choices.
As the surrounding environment continues to change, we need to reposition food products and reassess their respective nutritional and health benefits, to encourage the Japanese people to lead healthier, more nutritious lives. We need to provide the basic information that people need to make the right food choices and effectively manage their own health and nutrition.
With that in mind, the aim of this council is to produce academic evidence relating to the health and nutritional benefits of milk and dairy products, as an established basic food group in the Japanese diet following a surge in popularity during the postwar period, and to carry out research linking to modern-day lifestyle issues affecting Japanese people.
The council will also widely distribute intelligence and information gained through research activities to consumers as well as medical and nutritional professionals.
Existing organizations, including the National Dairy Promotion and Research Association of Japan, will be constructively dissolved and the aforementioned activities carried out primarily by the Dairy Products Health Science Council, as a new organization consisting of researchers specializing in the field of health science.
We are confident that these research activities will help to improve people’s health within modern Japanese society.
March 18, 2012
Founder:Hiroko Kodama, Makoto Shimizu, Teiji Nakamura, Takashi Kawahara, Kazuhiro Uenishi, Tamotsu Kuwata
On Sunday March 18, 2012, in Tokyo, we established the Reserch Network of Dairy Social Culture, an organization consisting of researchers and other experts in social and cultural fields, as a joint venture with the Japan Dairy Association (J Milk). The main aim set out in the network’s founding statement is to actively contribute to the creation of a national dairy culture in the near future, through socio-cultural research into the use of milk and the development of the dairy farming industry.
The network is structured around researchers across a wide range of different fields but with a shared interest in social and cultural value of milk. It was established with a membership of 17. Nine executives were appointed, including Chairman Komei Wani (President of the Western Japan Food Culture Study Group), Vice Chairman Shinichi Shogenji (graduate professor at Nagoya University) and Secretary General Hirofumi Maeda (Senior Managing Director of J Milk), as well as eight other founding members.
The network’s main activities include (1) conducting approximately four designated commissioned studies and approximately four commissioned studies submitted by the public, from research themes across six different fields, (2) gathering and providing information for purposes such as publishing research reports, (3) coordinating exchange activities between researchers involved in socio-cultural aspects of milk, (4) organizing forums and other events in partnership with the Milk Academic Alliance, and (5) assisting with seminars organized by the Milk Academic Alliance.
April 8, 2012
Founder:Hiroki Ukawa, Ayako Ehara, Yasuo Oe, HIdehiko Kaya, Yuki Konagaya, Akiyoshi Hosono, Komei Wani
Although there are records of regular Japanese people using milk as a foodstuff ever since the Meiji restoration in 1868, when people began to accept western culture, it wasn’t until after World War II that milk really became popular in Japan.
The explosive increase in milk consumption after the war was something unprecedented and truly groundbreaking, especially given the physiological limitations imposed by Japan’s high rate of lactose intolerance. Helped along by food aid from the US, this paved the way for western food culture, with milk becoming an increasingly common part of school lunches in particular. Measures were also introduced to promote dairy farming, as the dairy business started to develop and expand.
In the space of just half a century, milk became widely established as part of people’s lives, despite the fact that they had virtually no experience with milk prior to that point. These days, consumption of dairy products has reached the equivalent of 90 kilograms of raw milk per capita. A massive 12 million-ton market has grown up around milk and dairy products in Japan. This is all down to the emergence of a new milk culture in an island country in East Asia.
Japan’s milk culture cannot be viewed in the same way as that in the west. People consume dairy products in different forms in Japan and there has always been a substantial difference in the volume of consumption too. Also, the way in which Japanese people use milk is still changing. It is important to trace the process by which Japan’s milk culture was formed as closely as possible, so that we can carry out socio-cultural research into the true nature of how milk is used in modern Japan.
By studying the unique nature of Japan’s milk culture within a historical context, we can establish a clearer picture of the industrial and cultural role played by dairy farming, in terms of producing and supplying milk. In other Asian countries too, consumption of dairy products is starting to skyrocket now that economic growth has taken off. As Japan has already established itself as an advanced nation, further research into milk in Japan should help to improve diets and contribute to the development of the dairy farming industry in other Asian countries too.
There is a great deal to learn about how milk is used. People’s consumption of dairy products is not encouraged solely by factors that can be scientifically explained such as the nutritional and health benefits of milk. People use milk differently depending on how they perceive it, in terms of social and cultural value. Needless to say, social and cultural values of milk are subtly affected by factors such as living conditions and prevailing attitudes regarding value of the time, which in turn depend on Japan’s own unique culture and history. If we want to increase milk consumption in Japan on a sustainable basis and breathe new life into the milk and dairy market, it is well worth studying the social and cultural value of milk from a wide-ranging perspective, so that we can share that information with society as a whole.
This is what we had in mind when we established the Reserch Network of Dairy Social Culture. Working with researchers who have shared interests across a wide range of different fields, we intend to carry out social and cultural research into the use of milk and the development of the dairy farming industry, in an effort to actively contribute to the creation of a national dairy culture in the near future.
From the so-called “famine” brought on by postwar food shortages to the modern-day era of over-indulgence, the Japanese diet has changed significantly over the years. At the same time, some of the problems associated with food and health have become real social issues.
Japan built up a large-scale highly efficient food distribution system during the economic boom years. Although this enabled companies to improve the quality of food and cut costs at the same time, a gulf has opened up between production and consumption, as consumer interest in food has continued to wane. This is part of the reason why consumers are less knowledgeable and less discerning when it comes to food.
People are also keen to adopt more individual lifestyles. Whereas some consumers are starting to actively seek out rich foods, consumption is becoming polarized by the emergence of a new type of “food poverty”, whereby people skip meals for financial reasons or rely heavily on inexpensive ingredients to fill them up.
Social changes, including an increasing percentage of women entering the workforce, are another factor. As cooking at home is becoming an increasingly rare occurrence, more and more people are buying pre-cooked meals or eating out. With fewer opportunities for families to sit down together for a meal, food is playing a less important role in terms of family communication too. That also means children have fewer opportunities to learn about food culture and customs.Such changes in the national diet are posing serious health issues for the people of Japan, ranging from excessive consumption of fats and salts, imbalanced nutritional intake and irregular eating patterns through to obesity, excessive weight loss and lifestyle-related diseases.
A number of educational initiatives have sprung up around the country in an effort to resolve these food-related issues, helped along by recent political measures such as the enactment of the Basic Act on Food Education and the launch of the Basic Program for Shokuiku (dietary education) Promotion. As it stands however, there is still a long way to go before dietary education in Japan could be called sufficient.
With this in mind, we need educational initiatives aimed at encouraging healthy attitudes towards food and improving people’s ability to make sensible food choices, now more than ever. If Japanese people have a wider range of food experiences and learn more about food in general, it will enable them to lead healthy, fulfilling lives, underpinned by a sound diet.
Based on diet-related issues such as these and an awareness of the problems involved, we intend to conduct systematic research into “food and education,” adopting a problem-solving approach to the various life stages when we develop habits and attitudes towards food, focusing on childhood, school age and adolescence.
We established the Milk Education Research Council to carry out research into educational programs and practical teaching materials that tap into the outstanding educational and nutritional possibilities of milk (milk and dairy products), as an everyday presence in children’s lives at home and school, produce information for school staff and families, and implement and provide support for initiatives in the field of food and education.
October 8, 2012
Founder:Hiroyuki Tanaka, Hiroko Kodama, Mihoko Nagashima, Masayuki Ishii, Yumiko Suzuki