Health Concerns Surrounding ‘Beni-koji’ Dietary Supplement in Japan

Recently, Japan issued a nationwide recall of a dietary supplement called ‘beni-koji choleste help’, which was intended to lower cholesterol levels. The recall was initiated after concerns were raised about the supplement’s potential link to two deaths and approximately 106 hospitalisations in the country. Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, the company selling the product, has recalled five products, including around 300,000 units of ‘beni-koji choleste help’.

About ‘Beni-koji’ Supplement

The supplement in question contains an ingredient known as red yeast rice or ‘beni-koji’, which is made by fermenting rice with monascus purpureus, a reddish-purple mould. Beni-koji is known for its potential to lower bad cholesterol levels and is used in various food items, including sake, bread, confectionery, and miso.

However, the fermentation process of beni-koji can produce a toxin called citrinin, which may lead to kidney diseases. Kobayashi Pharmaceutical has stated that it did not find any citrinin in the recalled products.

Reported Deaths and Hospitalisations

According to Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, one person who had been consuming beni-koji supplements for the past three years died from kidney disease. A second death was reported by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare after a hearing with the company. Additionally, 106 cases of potentially linked hospitalisation have come to light, with affected individuals reporting symptoms such as changes in urine colour, swollen limbs, and fatigue.

Company’s Response

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical has stated that it does not fully understand the link between the reported health issues and the company’s products. However, it has acknowledged that the supplements contained “ingredients we had not intended to include”. The company has apologised for the situation and emphasised that it has always prioritised the health of its customers above all else.

Government Action

The Japanese government has announced plans to carry out urgent inspections on approximately 6,000 products that claim health benefits, holding producers accountable. The Ministry of Health has stated that while numerous health damage reports have been received from individuals who have ingested certain “health foods” containing red yeast rice, the relationship with health damage has not been clearly established.



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