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Japan pulls red mould supplement pill linked to deaths and hospitalisations | Health News

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Kobayashi company recalls supplement brands with ‘benikoji’ ingredient after kidney complaints by customers.

Japan has ordered the recall of health supplements believed to have killed two people and hospitalised more than 100.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical recalled three brands containing red yeast rice, or “benikoji”. The Osaka-based drugmaker said on Wednesday that it was investigating a suspected link between the products and ill effects on kidneys.

Benikoji contains Monascus purpureus, a red mould that is also used as a food colouring. “Beni koji choleste help” and two other products are billed as helping to lower cholesterol.

“The total number of suspected deaths [is now] two” while “106 cases of potentially linked hospitalisation also came to light,” government spokesperson Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters.

In addition to Kobayashi’s supplements, more than 40 products from other companies containing benikoji, including miso paste, crackers and a vinegar dressing, have been recalled, a Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare official said.

Health Minister Keizo Takemi said on Tuesday that the government has instructed Kobayashi Pharmaceutical to “promptly provide information”.

The ministry has also “instructed local authorities nationwide to collect information on health damage”, he said as he offered condolences to those affected.

Kobayashi is investigating the issue. The recalled products could be purchased over the counter without a prescription.

Apologising, the company issued a statement calling on purchasers not to use the supplements

“Please stop taking our products, and please do not use them in the future,” it said.

The ministry official warned there could be more victims in the days ahead and called on all people to avoid benikoji. Those with health problems, like weak kidneys, could be especially vulnerable, he said.

All the products were made in Japan although it is unclear if any of the raw materials were imported. A recall of imported health supplements has happened before, but this is the first major recall of a domestically produced supplement, according to Japanese media reports.

Medical studies describe red yeast rice as an alternative to statins for lowering high cholesterol but also warn of a risk of organ damage depending on its chemical makeup.

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