TORRANCE, Calif., April 17, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Yakult Honsha Co., Ltd. (President and COO; Takashige Negishi, Tokyo) announces the acquisition of self-affirmed GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status for its exclusive probiotic strain, Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota in the United States. Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota was isolated by Dr. Minoru Shirota in 1930. This probiotic strain is found in Yakult's products, such as Yakult® (cultured probiotic drink with dairy), which are sold in a growing number of U.S. stores.

An independent panel of U.S. experts in toxicology, nutrition and molecular biology has rigorously evaluated research studies and toxicology data on Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota, and concluded that this strain is safe for use as a food ingredient. As a result of the panel's analysis, Yakult Honsha obtained self-affirmed GRAS status for Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota. This strain has been safely used in Japan as a food ingredient for over 75 years, and self-affirmed GRAS status is further confirmation of its safety. Yakult Honsha will subsequently notify FDA of this GRAS status.

Yakult U.S.A. Inc., a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Yakult Honsha, started selling Yakult® in the U.S. in 1999, and sales have steadily increased since then. "Yakult will accelerate our activities to penetrate our brand not only in the U.S., but also all over the world, by increasing the recognition of the safety of Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota," commented Michio Shimizu, President and CEO of Yakult U.S.A. Inc.    

About Self-affirmed GRAS

Food and food ingredients designated as self-affirmed GRAS are generally recognized among qualified experts as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of their intended use. FDA initiated the self-affirmed GRAS notification system in 1997.

About Yakult Honsha Co., Ltd.

Yakult Honsha Co., Ltd. retains its commitment to improve human health worldwide and proactively promotes its international business. Currently Yakult's network extends through Asia, Oceania, the Americas and Europe, and our products are sold through 28 overseas operations and consumed in 32 countries. Global consumption of Yakult's dairy products is approximately 29 million every day.  Yakult will continue striving to deepen the understanding of probiotics, and support good health for all. Yakult Honsha Co., Ltd. was established in 1955 and is regarded as the world's pioneer of probiotics. Yakult U.S.A. Inc., a subsidiary of Yakult Honsha Co., Ltd. is located in Torrance, CA, and supports Yakult's business in the United States and Canada. For more information, please visit www.yakultusa.com and www.yakult.co.jp/english.

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Hideyuki Shibata, Ph.D.

(310) 542-7065