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Montevideo, April 24th 2024 - 19:10 UTC

 

 

Over-the-counter dietary supplement kills at least 5 in Japan

Saturday, March 30th 2024 - 11:14 UTC
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In 2023, some 18.5 tons of benikoji products were manufactured by Kobayashi In 2023, some 18.5 tons of benikoji products were manufactured by Kobayashi

At a time when the spread of dengue fever in South America -particularly in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay- led the region to seek the Japanese-developed Qdenga vaccine from the Takeda laboratories to tackle the disease, the case of at least five dead and over 100 hospitalized in the Asian insular nation after taking cholesterol-lowering red yeast rice dietary supplements did not go unnoticed.

According to local media, the Osaka-based Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co. failed to come open about a problem it had known about internally since January. It was not until March 22 that the company decided to recall the faulty product containing benikoji, some sort of red mold. Earlier this week there were two fatalities and the figures were updated to five on Friday, in addition to some 114 people treated in hospitals. About 680 people have either seen a doctor due to health issues or wish to do so, it was also reported.

Some of the victims developed kidney problems after ingesting the supplements, but the exact cause remains under investigation, in cooperation with government laboratories, the manufacturer said.

“We offer our deepest apologies,” the drugmaker's president, Akihiro Kobayashi, told reporters Friday, taking a long bow to emphasize his apology, along with three other top company officials. He also apologized for the deceased and the sick as well as for the problems caused to the entire health food industry and the medical profession.

The drugmaker's products have been recalled, along with dozens more containing benikoji, including miso paste, crackers, and a vinegar dressing. Some of these items normally use benikoji as a food coloring.

According to Japan's Health Ministry, the death toll could continue to rise. The supplements were available in pharmacies without a prescription and some may have been already purchased or exported, the authorities warned.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical has been marketing benikoji products for years and in the last three fiscal years sold one million packs. The problem arose with the supplements produced in 2023 when 18.5 tons of benikoji products were manufactured.

Health Ministry officials and local authorities in Osaka inspected a Kobayashi Pharmaceutical factory on Saturday. The facility in western Japan, which was making the ingredients of the supplements, shut down in December.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.
Tags: benikoji, Japan.

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