food supplements at the heart of a health scandal

food supplements at the heart of a health scandal

For around ten days, Japan has been affected by a health scandal linked to food supplements containing red yeast rice, supposed to lower cholesterol levels. The Japanese Ministry of Health announced this Tuesday, April 2, a new toll of five deaths and 157 hospitalizations, compared to 114 last Friday. The latter could be linked to these supplements produced and marketed by the Japanese group Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, based in Osaka.

1 min

With our correspondent in Tokyo, Frederic Charles

Authorities Japanese and the pharmaceutical group are still working to identify which substance in red yeast rice could be causing hospitalizations and deaths.

Over the past three years, the pharmaceutical group Kobayashi Pharmaceutical has produced a million food supplements containing red yeast rice (called “beni koji”) without encountering health problems. The group also supplied red yeast rice to around fifty other companies in Japan, as well as two companies in Taiwan. Most of them recalled derivative products such as sparkling sake or fermented soybean paste.

Doctors warned of potential dangers

This yeast is presented as a natural anti-cholesterol. But for years, doctors have been warning of the potential dangers of this ingredient. They suggest possible liver or kidney damage.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical specifies that the first person to die had regularly purchased one of its recalled products for three years. “ It is possible that the raw materials used to manufacture the dietary supplements contain ingredients that our company did not intend to include », Adds the pharmaceutical group.

Analyzes did not reveal the presence of citrinin, a toxic substance that can develop in red yeast rice and cause kidney problems.

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