Recalled Japanese Health Supplements End in 5 Deaths and 100+ Hospitalizations

Recalled Japanese Health Supplements End in 5 Deaths and 100+ Hospitalizations

Five people have died and more than 100 have been hospitalized after taking a Japanese health supplement, officials reported on Friday. The supplement, made by Osaka-based Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co., was recalled a week earlier after it was discovered that the products contained an ingredient called benikoji, a red species of mold. The company faced criticism for not disclosing the issues sooner, as internal problems had been known as early as January. The first public announcement of the recall was made on March 22.

Initially, the number of deaths linked to the supplement was two, but that number rose to five by Friday. 114 people remain hospitalized after experiencing kidney problems due to the consumption of the products. The company is working with government laboratories to determine the exact cause of the health issues related to the supplements.

President Akihiro Kobayashi apologized to the public, the families of the deceased and sickened individuals, and to the health food and medical industries. The company has recalled all of its products containing benikoji, as have other manufacturers, including miso paste, crackers, and a vinegar dressing. The health ministry issued a list of all recalled products on its official website, warning that the number of deaths could continue to rise as the affected supplements were sold without a prescription and may have been purchased or exported prior to the recall.

Although Kobayashi Pharmaceutical had been selling benikoji products for years, issues arose with supplements produced in 2023. The company admitted to producing 18.5 tons of benikoji last year. Critics have pointed to recent deregulation initiatives in Japan that expedited the approval process for health products as a contributing factor to this health crisis.

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