Three Japanese university students have invented a face mask made of bread that is said to block water droplets to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as offering a “feeling of happiness” thanks to its scent.
According to Japan’s SoraNews24, the Mask Pan—made from melon pan, a sweet bread popular in Japan and other parts of Asia—was dreamt up by three students from Okinawa and Fukuoka who wanted to be able to smell the bread all the time.
The edible mask was created in collaboration with The Labo, the experimental division of the Goku no Kimochi massage parlor chain. The bread was reportedly provided by the Tokyo bakery chain Melon de Melon.
The Mask Pan web page, which is offering five masks for 1,800 yen (around $16.40), states: “The back of the melon bread is specially manufactured to fit the nose and mouth. Taking advantage of the soft structure peculiar to bread, it fits the nose and mouth.”
The website claims the mask helps to block water droplets thanks to the thickness of the melon bread, which “forms high-density fibers.”
The Labo also claims “the performance was equal to or better than that of commercially available masks,” according to the “splash prevention performance visualisation test” demonstrated at the website, SoraNews24 reported.
According to news outlet ETX Daily Up, the effectiveness of the Mask Pan was tested by the Unitika Garmentec Research Institute, an independent testing body.
The Mask Pan web page warned, however: “If you eat the inside of the mask, the performance will decrease.”
It added: “When used outdoors as a mask, there is a possibility of virus adhesion. Please do not eat the outer part.”
Time Out Tokyo reported that the masks were distributed to passers-by in Tokyo’s Shibuya and Akihabara neighborhoods last month.
Online orders at the Mask Pan web page are sold out for June. Orders placed now will be delivered in July.
News of the edible face mask comes as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan approaches 770,400, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 13,800 deaths have been reported in the country as of Thursday,
The seven-day average of COVID cases in the country began rising in late March and peaked in mid-May before declining in early June, according to data compiled by Worldometer.
Tokyo is scheduled to hold the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on July 23. The Games were postponed last year and arguments are raging in Japan over whether they should be canceled altogether.
Newsweek has contacted the Japanese health ministry and the World Health Organization Western Pacific Region for comment on the bread masks.