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Brief Published: 31 May 2016

Food Allergy Tattoo

Food Allergy Tattoo

The Japanese branch of international ad agency J. Walter Thompson has developed a temporary tattoo that reveals whether the wearer is allergic to a popular national dish.

Japan is known for its soba noodles made from buckwheat flour, which can cause serious allergic reactions in some individuals. This prompted an alliance of soba restaurants in Hokkaido – the country's largest prefecture – to commission JWT to develop a fun way of promoting the dish while helping unwitting tourists discern whether they can enjoy it safely.

The playful designs are noodle-based twists on famous Ukiyo-e woodblock prints from 17th to 19th-century Japan. When dabbed with soba broth (left over from boiling the noodles), a mild allergic reaction causes the tattoo motifs to turn red.

In March 2016, an initial run of 200 tattoos were handed out at an event in Sapporo, Hokkaido’s largest city. Keizo Mugita, senior creative director at J. Walter Thompson Japan, said: “With the depreciation of yen, we now have lots of tourists visiting Japan... so we hope to do this campaign across Japan.”

This technology could be harnessed by the beauty industry in the same way L'Oreal has with its innovative UV Skin Patch. With temporary, tattoo-like beauty accessories likely to make more of an impact in the coming year, tech and health hacks could lead to useful, but fun products. See The Future of Temporary Tattoos.

Meanwhile, the intersection between art and food is a thriving area of inventive expression, acting as creative fuel across many industries. For more, see Food + Materials: New Edible Forms, Food + Colour: Visualising Flavour, and Feasting on Art.