Do you know what additives are in your food in Japan?

A lot of the food here seems perfect, however, natural food in Japan can be quite hard to come by. So, what additives are in your food in Japan? This is because much of the food that you can buy at the grocery store is laden with additives which technically conforms to loopholes provided in food safety law. The basis of most meals is usually meat, vegetables, and lastly, flavor from seasonings brings it all together. Information about additives in food and their regulations in Japan is an obscure subject where transparency isn’t seen as paramount. What is it that we’re eating in Japan then? This infographic lays out 6 facts about food in Japan from meat, to vegetables and seasonings.


A lot of meat in Japan can be subject to chemical washing for disinfectant purposes. The chemicals used in Japan for meat washing are sodium hypochlorite or Ji aensosan’natoriumu 次亜塩素酸ナトリウム and substances that are defined as bi sansei denkai mizu 微酸性電解水 “slightly acidic electrolyzed water” (which includes – sodium chloride, potassium chloride and diluted hydrochloric acid). Sodium hypochlorite in particular, is quite disturbing, as when mixed with water – it becomes bleach. Effectively, your meat is being soaked in bleach. Of the additives that are in your food in Japan, bleach is particularly distressing.

Nitrites are used to prevent the growth and spread of the botulinum bacteria in meat so it is regularly used during the meat production process in Japan, especially with highly processed meat products such as bacon and sausage. Scarily, there may be link between cancer and consumption of nitrites.


We’ve talked about the what additives are in your additives in meat as a whole but let’s talk about beef specifically. Compared to beef imported from the US, there are relatively lower levels of growth hormones present in beef raised in Japan. Just to give you an idea, about 38% of beef in Japan is American beef. This is good news if you’re buying Japanese beef, but if you’re buying beef from American cattle then that means you could be consuming beef with up to 600 times more estrogen than Japanese beef. According to Yasunori Honda, excess consumption of hormones from heightened consumption of beef have lead to an increase in the known cases of breast and prostate cancer in Japanese men and women. Now that’s a lot of burgers!

This article explains in further detail about all the additives that are found in meat in Japan.


When someone thinks about what additives are in your food in Japan, antibiotics may not come to mind straight away. The consumption of red meat is declining for many reasons such as health and sustainability. Chicken is the go-to protein source for many body-builders and those looking for a cheap, healthy, delicious source of protein that is also low in fat. However, chicken is not exempt from additives either. A lot of chicken in Japan is fed antibiotics for many reasons. These range from, preventing disease from cramped living conditions and also promoting growth from heightened nutrition absorption.

Another issue with chicken in Japan is the labeling. Not to say that all chicken is mislabeled in Japan, but a lot of it is called Kokusan Wakadori 国産若鳥 which means “Japanese young chicken” in English. Wakadori must be younger than 3 months in age, which is not mature enough to be edible. By those standards, a lot of what is labeled as “Wakadori” is actually meat from broiler hens.

Pre-cut Vegetables

The convenience of pre-cut, frozen vegetables is undeniable. Having nutritious vegetables with minimal prep-time on hand is a lifesaver but the ready-to-eat factor does come at a cost. Like other prepared foods, vegetables need to be washed so they are safe for consumption, because, lets face it – no one rewashes frozen vegetables. However a lot of pre-cut vegetables in Japan are treated with sodium hypochlorite Ji aensosan natoriumu  次亜塩素酸ナトリウム. Earlier in this article, you may remember reading about sodium hypochlorite being used in the meat production industry as a disinfectant. The same holds true for vegetables. Effectively, there is a possibility that your pre-cut vegetables are being treated with bleach. Bleach is a big one to avoid when thinking about what additives are in your food in Japan.

Sodium hypochlorite is one of many substances used in the vegetable treatment process in Japan, and if this infographic has sparked your interest on the subject, this article contains an extensive list and explanation of what additives are in your food in Japan.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is iconic within Japanese cuisine as it plays a part in flavoring almost every dish. Not all soy sauce is created equal though. A lot of soy sauce in Japan is made with defatted soybeans. Defatted soybeans have been processed in a hexane bath to extract the oil. Other ingredients in non-traditional shōyu is monosodium glutamate (MSG), caramel pigments (for color), thickeners and preservatives.

Knowing which additives are in your food in Japan, it’s worth checking the ingredients on the bottle next time you buy soy sauce to make sure it’s traditionally brewed, authentic Japanese soy sauce. If you’d like to read more, this article explains the difference between chemical soy sauce and traditional Japanese soy sauce. Rest assured, there are natural options that have been brewed in the traditional Japanese way!


Ketchup is another versatile condiment. Although it isn’t Japanese, it does make an appearance in many Japanese foods, such as Omu-raisu (Omelette rice). Not to mention, it’s delicious on french fries! Japan, like many other countries lists ingredients in descending amounts. Sugar is bad enough for you but high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is worse. HFCS is usually the second ingredient in ketchup, because it’s a cheaper alternative to sugar. HFCS is known as Katō budōtō ekitō 果糖ブドウ糖液糖 in Japanese. It is a huge contributor to obesity and other health problems, not to mention it’s metabolized by the body differently. Experts, nutritionists and doctors alike all warn against the dangers of HFCS on the body and this is especially true in our current day and age where sugar consumption has gone from 20 teaspoons a year 10,000 years ago to 140 pounds a year.

After reading this article, you now know what additives are in your food in Japan. Avoiding these is the key to living healthier and this infographic is designed to help you better understand natural food in Japan. If you are looking for healthier options, then check out Sugarlady’s range of Non-GMO, hormone and antibiotic free meat, organic vegetables, and natural seasonings.

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