Hundreds of persons hospitalised over intake of dietary supplement

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212 people have been hospitalised in Japan due to health damage related to the intake of Kobayashi pharmaceutical dietary supplement containing red yeast rice, or beni-koji.

Local media reported on Monday.

The figure was updated as of Sunday; with those who have since been discharged included, national news agency Kyodo reported citing the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

The ministry, based on the report from Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, the manufacturer of the beni-koji ingredient said that a total of 1,224 had sought for medical attention as of Sunday.

That about 53,000 inquiries had been directed to the company.

During interviews at Kobayashi Pharmaceutical’s headquarters in Osaka on Saturday, discussions were held regarding the two-month gap the drug maker took from identifying health damages to making them public, the health ministry added.

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In an earlier interview with Xinhua, Hidetoshi Tashiro, chief economist at Japan’s Sigma Capital Ltd., said that Kobayashi Pharmaceutical’s food safety crisis also revealed organisational problems within the company.

The drug maker, as a typical Japanese family-owned enterprise, might prioritise family interests over customer interests in decision-making, said Tashiro.

Tashiro added that its failure to conduct immediate measures or report to authorities about the health damage had exacerbated the crisis.

The Kyodo report noted that although the Food Sanitation Act requires businesses to make efforts to inform local authorities when health issues are identified, it is possible that the company was unaware of the situation.

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The company’s red yeast rice dietary supplement named Beni-koji Choleste Help has been associated with five deaths from kidney diseases.

The product, rolled out in February 2021, was a type of granules advertised with the effect of lowering LDL cholesterol levels.

It sold around one million packages as at the end of February.

An unintended component called puberulic acid, derived from blue mold, had been detected in the company’s product manufactured at Kobayashi Pharmaceutical’s Osaka factory.

This was shut down in December 2023, according to the health ministry and the company.

According to the ministry, the substance is a potent antibacterial and ant malarial agent that can be toxic, but the extent to which its ingestion may pose health risks or cause kidney damage remains unclear.(Xinhua/NAN)

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