Canned yakitori approved for consumption in space

Yakitori, a form of grilled chicken, has become the first canned meat product certified by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as a ‘space food’.

The product is manufactured by Hotei Foods Corporation, which has both food and beverage canning facilities at its factory at Fuji City, in Shizuoka prefecture, Japan. Hotei has sold the grilled chicken, a popular snack accompaniment to drinks in Japan, in canned form since 1970.

Two commercially available flavours are available: soy sauce and yuzu pepper. The products received the certification from JAXA in late October 2019, more than two and a half years after being submitted for consideration.

Criteria they had to comply with included not scattering in zero-gravity environments and having a shelf-life of at least 18 months.

Although canned fish products have received JAXA approval in the past, this is the first approval for canned meat.

The space food versions of the cans will include hook-and-loop fasteners on their sides to prevent them from floating away in zero gravity. Limited edition commemorative cans including the Japanese Space Food logo will go on sale early next year.

“Many Japanese foods that have been certified to date are space-only products, and the specifications, manufacturing processes, and packaging materials of commercial products are customised for space use,” it stated on Hotei Foods’ website.

“However, our yakitori canned foods not only meet basic requirements for commercial products, but also meet the JAXA standards for manufacturing processes, especially hygiene management.

“In the case of canned yakitori, the only difference between Japanese space foods and commercial products is whether they are designed or plain cans [as the ones used on International Space Station will be].”