Four deaths from Kobayashi Pharmaceutical's red koji, and the prime minister of Japan urges a thorough investigation.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical in Japan confirmed that the number of consumers who died after taking health supplements containing red koji ingredients has increased to four, and the number of hospitalized patients has been reduced to 93. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized the need to thoroughly investigate the cause and consider all necessary response measures. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga revealed that relevant information has been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). Japanese media reports suggest that Kobayashi Pharmaceutical intends to provide compensation to manufacturers who use its red koji as a raw material.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical stated that two people may have died after taking the health supplements containing red koji ingredients of the company, and the number of hospitalized people exceeded 100.
According to a report by Kyodo News Agency, at a hearing held by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan, Kobayashi Pharmaceutical claimed that another person may have died after taking the red koji-containing health supplements produced by the company, resulting in the number of deaths increasing to two.

Earlier, Kobayashi Pharmaceutical reported that a patient died of kidney disease about three years after taking red koji supplements. Currently, the cause-and-effect relationship between the cause of the patient's death and the related health supplements of the company is still under investigation.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, headquartered in Osaka, said that between April 2021 and February 2024, the deceased regularly purchased online the health supplement "Red Koji Cholesterol Granules" produced by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, totaling 35 bags, and took three capsules per day. The company has launched an investigation into the causal relationship between the product and the death of the user, and has not disclosed the residence, gender, and age of the deceased.

It is reported that the relatives of the deceased provided relevant information to Kobayashi Pharmaceutical by email last Saturday (23rd). The company met with the relatives on Tuesday to learn the details. Additionally, 50 people notified Kobayashi Pharmaceutical that they were hospitalized after taking "Red Koji Cholesterol Granules", which increased the number of hospitalized patients to 76. "Red Koji Cholesterol Granules" has been on sale since 2021, and 1.06 million bags were sold as of February this year. Kobayashi Pharmaceutical has recalled hundreds of thousands of bags.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday that he deeply regrets that Kobayashi Pharmaceutical reported to the authorities and made the matter public only two months after discovering the incident.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical learned about the suspected cases related to red koji health supplements on January 15 this year and conducted its own investigation. President of Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, Akihiro Kobayashi, held a press conference in Osaka last Friday and bowed to apologize, stating that it took a lot of time to confirm the facts and identify the causes, but also admitting that the company's judgment was too slow.

Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Takeo Arimoto emphasized at a press conference after the Cabinet meeting yesterday that he will work closely with Osaka City to find out the cause of the incident, and hold a hearing on Kobayashi Pharmaceutical's response. The Pharmaceutical and Food Sanitation Review Commission will also hold an investigation meeting.

Most of the red koji raw materials produced by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical are sold to other companies. In 2023, 18.5 tons of red koji were produced, and 16.1 tons were sold to 52 companies, some of which are wholesalers. Therefore, the actual number of companies that use them may be even larger. Currently, more than 20 companies have decided to voluntarily recall products containing red koji raw materials from Kobayashi Pharmaceutical. Although no health effects have been found in these products, Kobayashi Pharmaceutical will study how to compensate these companies.

Red koji is mainly used as a raw material for coloring and seasoning, and the types of affected products are extensive, including Japanese sake, snacks, bread, and sauces. Many Japanese people are now very nervous when they see that the product ingredients contain red koji. For example, Nissin's "Donburi" red-packaged tempura soba noodles caused consumers' concerns because it was labeled "red koji pigment". Nissin quickly clarified that it did not use any red koji raw materials from Kobayashi Pharmaceutical.

The Japanese government stated that it will carry out emergency inspections on more than 6,000 registered functional foods.

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