Japanese Health Supplements Containing Benikoji: Five Dead, Over 100 Hospitalized in Week-Long Scandal

Recalled Japanese Health Supplements Result in 5 Deaths and More Than 100 Hospitalizations

In the past week, more than 100 people have been hospitalized and five have died after consuming Japanese health supplements containing benikoji, a red mold species. The Osaka-based Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co. faced criticism for not disclosing internal problems related to the supplements earlier, as issues were known as early as January but the announcement was made on March 22.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical had been selling benikoji products for several years, with a significant amount produced in 2023. Analysts attribute the issue to recent deregulation initiatives aimed at accelerating approval for health products to boost economic growth. Following the recall of the company’s products, several other items containing benikoji have also been pulled from shelves, including miso paste, crackers, and a vinegar dressing. Japan’s health ministry released a list of all the recalled products, warning that the number of deaths could increase.

President Akihiro Kobayashi issued a deep apology to those affected, their families, and the entire health food industry and medical profession. Some of the affected individuals developed kidney problems, but the exact cause is still being investigated with government laboratories. It is important to note that these supplements were available for purchase without a prescription and may have been bought or exported before the recall was initiated.

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