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Health Authorities Investigate Kobayashi Pharmaceutical After About 5 Deaths Linked To Supplements

EXCERPT: Japanese health authorities are investigating Kobayashi’s use of “Beni-Koji” in their products as a probable cause of health issues.


Health authorities conducted a second search at a Kobayashi Pharmaceutical factory in western Japan on Sunday following reports of five deaths possibly associated with dietary supplements, an official disclosed.

The inspection, conducted in Wakayama prefecture, comes after a previous search on Saturday at a factory in Osaka, as the investigation into the drugmaker’s use of “Beni-Koji” red yeast materials expands.

Kobayashi, headquartered in Osaka, reported the discovery of potentially toxic puberulic acid, believed to be produced by blue mould penicillium in Beni-Koji materials manufactured between April and October last year at the Osaka factory.

According to the company, as of Friday, 114 individuals had been hospitalized, and five fatalities were reported after consuming the supplements marketed for lowering cholesterol levels.

While the cause of these deaths remains unconfirmed, Japan’s Health and Welfare Ministry suspects a possible link to Beni-Koji, prompting the inspections at both factories within two days.

Kobayashi’s investor relations head, Yuko Tomiyama, assured full cooperation with the investigation during a press briefing on Sunday aired by public broadcaster NHK, saying, “We will fully cooperate with the investigation so that we can resolve the problems as early as possible.”

The ministry pledged to collaborate with relevant authorities to address the ongoing case while urging Kobayashi Pharma’s cooperation in the investigation.

Reports indicate that the Osaka factory was shuttered in December due to aging facilities, with production shifted to the Kinokawa factory searched on Sunday.

Kobayashi’s delayed announcement of the health impacts of its products drew criticism from the government. The company initiated product recalls on March 22 after receiving reports of kidney ailments.

The potential risks of Kobayashi products have garnered attention beyond Japan, with cases of acute renal failure reported in Taiwan. The Taiwanese food and drug administration is investigating possible health reactions related to imported materials from Kobayashi.

South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has listed 182 Japanese recalled products, including those from Kobayashi, advising consumers against purchasing them online.

Beni-Koji, containing Monascus purpureus, is a red mould used as a food colouring and is wholesaled to 52 companies by Kobayashi, impacting a wide network of food makers, as per TV Asahi reports.

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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