Japan will study whether to allow meat and dairy products from cloned animals to be served at homes and restaurants, the government said Wednesday.
The health ministry has asked the Cabinet Office's Food Safety Commission to make a final evaluation on whether the current ban on such food should be lifted, the ministry said. It is unclear how long the evaluation will take.
The move by the health ministry follows a series of reports compiled by domestic and foreign laboratories that said cloned animals were as healthy as conventionally-bred ones.
The National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science, affiliated with the Japanese farm ministry, has also reached a similar conclusion, a farm ministry official said.
"We have come to the conclusion that the health of cows cloned from somatic cells and their offspring is equal to conventionally-bred ones," said farm ministry official Mitsukazu Sakuradani.
In January, the US Food and Drug Administration and its European counterpart approved the sale of food from cloned animals and their offspring after years of research.
But the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said cloned animal foods should not be marketed for the time being, pending consultations on introducing them.
Such foods have faced opposition on ethical and health grounds.
The European Commission has vowed to consult consumers before giving its own ruling in May, while the European Food Safety Authority said meat and milk from healthy cattle and pig clones were probably safe for humans.
In Japan, only laboratories and research institutes have grown cloned animals. There were 535 cows and 256 pigs as of the end of September, the government said.