Food supplement scandal in Japan: fifth suspicious death reported

Food supplement scandal in Japan: fifth suspicious death reported

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The black series continues in Japan. The Japanese pharmaceutical group Kobayashi Pharmaceutical announced on Friday that it was investigating a fifth death potentially linked to some of its food supplements, at the center of a vast health scandal in the country. These products contained red yeast rice, “beni koji”, supposed to lower blood cholesterol. On Thursday, the company had already reported two new suspicious deaths.

Among the people who died, some were aged 70 to 90, the company said, cited by the Japanese agency. Kyodo News. The number of people hospitalized in Japan in connection with this case rose to 114, she also specified during a press conference. Patients suffer especially kidney failurethe group had indicated a few days earlier, also mentioning swollen limbs or fatigue among the symptoms.

A case of hospitalization in Taiwan, also potentially linked to food supplements from Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, was also reported Thursday by local media. If this link is confirmed, it would be the first known case outside Japan.

“Great anxiety”

“I deeply apologize for the great anxiety we have caused,” the president of this family group, Akihiro Kobayashi, said Friday, bowing with other executives of his company in a sign of contrition in front of the cameras.

He also said he “regretted” that the company only communicated on the subject at the end of last week, by launching the recall of three ranges of products in question, even though it had received a first report by a doctor on January 15. Japanese Health Minister Keizo Takemi said on Tuesday it was “regrettable” that she “did not provide information to the government” during its investigations “to determine the cause” of these problems.

The group from Osaka, in western Japan, also indicated on Friday that it wanted to compensate people suffering from side effects or being hospitalized after consuming its food supplements.

A sought-after “unintentional” substance

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical and Japanese health authorities are still working to identify which substance in red yeast rice, called “beni koji”, present in the incriminated dietary supplements could be the cause of the reported hospitalizations and deaths. The pharmaceutical group assured that this substance was “unintentional” and explained that it could “come from mold”, according to the public television channel NHK.

This yeast is presented as a natural anticholesterol, but studies have also warned for years of its potential danger: depending on its chemical composition, it can damage organs such as the liver or kidneys.

The company admitted this week that it had also supplied its red yeast rice to around fifty other companies in Japan, as well as two companies in Taiwan. As a precaution, many of these companies have in turn issued recalls of their own products containing this yeast, such as sparkling sake, salad dressing or fermented soy paste, “miso”. Kobayashi Pharmaceutical also sold its yeast to two Taiwanese companies.

The Japanese authorities have also asked other food supplement manufacturers to verify their products and inform foreign countries about this health issue. “Once the cause has been identified, the government will examine the necessary measures” to take to prevent such an affair from happening again, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida promised Thursday before the Japanese Parliament.

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