the shadow of a health scandal over food supplements – L’Express

the shadow of a health scandal over food supplements –

Every day the list grows longer. To the point of casting the shadow of a health scandal over Japan. Since March 26, five people have died after ingesting food supplements based on red yeast rice, beni koji, intended to reduce cholesterol in the blood.

Produced by the pharmaceutical giant Kobayashi Pharmaceutical – 18.5 tonnes were marketed in 2023 – these brown or red pills also led to the hospitalization of 157 consumers for kidney failure, according to an announcement from the Japanese Ministry of Health on April 2 .

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For the moment, it is difficult to know what substance could be at the origin of the affair. The pharmaceutical group, but also the Japanese health authorities, assured that investigations had been launched, in order to understand the link between the incriminated supplements and the reported cases. But the scandal is growing even more as Kobayashi Pharmaceutical revealed that it had received a first report from a doctor on January 15, which was left unheeded. The recall of three product lines was only triggered after mid-March, given the large number of calls from consumers expressing health problems, more than 3,000.

A very common yeast

At the heart of criticism, Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, a famous family group founded in 1886, was therefore forced to make an act of contrition. “I deeply apologize for the great anxiety we have caused,” said Akihiro Kobayashi, the president, at a press conference held on March 29. After bowing in front of the cameras alongside other leaders, the man also said he wanted to compensate people suffering from side effects or being hospitalized due to the ingestion of these food supplements.

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In Japan, this “ancestral” yeast is very widespread and used in thousands of products: salad, sparkling sake or “miso” paste. However, its potential dangers have been known for years. In 2019, already, an article from British Medical Journal warned of its harmful impact on the liver and kidneys. The European Commission also introduced regulations in 2022 to limit the use of a substance contained in red rice supplements (monacolin) due to adverse effects.

A possible case in Taiwan

However, the Japanese health authorities do not directly incriminate beni-koji: “After analysis, we noted that it was possible that the raw materials used to make beni-koji contained ingredients that our company did not have. intention to include,” Kobayashi Pharmaceutical emphasized. Before asserting that a chemical compound naturally produced by mold, puberulic acid, could be involved, reports the JapanTimes.

While waiting to shed light on the causes of such tragedies, the Japanese authorities are not the only ones to be concerned. Because Kobayashi Pharmaceutical also supplies yeast to other countries, such as Taiwan. On March 28, local media cited speak JapanTimes, reported the hospitalization of a 70-year-old woman, who took a supplement manufactured by a Taiwanese company using yeast straight from Kobayashi Pharmaceutical factories. He was diagnosed with acute renal failure. If the link is confirmed, it would be the first case of hospitalization outside Japan.