At least two people have died in Japan and 100 have been hospitalized due to a series of food supplements containing red yeast rice, which have now been recalled, the Japanese Ministry of Health said on Wednesday.

According to Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, the company responsible, one person died on Tuesday, while the Japanese Ministry of Health has confirmed a second death after a meeting with the company.

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Both individuals had reportedly taken the cholesterol-lowering supplement regularly for the past year.if authorities said they suspect that the deaths could be related to the product, although they are investigating details of the cases and possible links.


The company has received more than three thousand emails since announcing the recall last Friday, but it was only this week that it was able to confirm the first death, Kobayashi Pharmaceutical said.

Another 106 people were hospitalized in connection with consumption of the products, although the condition of the patients is unknown and there is no public information about other consumers who suffered health problems possibly caused by the supplements without being admitted to medical facilities.

Japan’s Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, Keizo Takemi, criticized on Tuesday the company’s actions outside of public health authorities: “I regret that Kobayashi Pharmaceutical did not present relevant information to the authorities during the carrying out its investigation”, he stated, at a press conference.

“We will try to ensure the health safety of the public and food, and we will stop the spread of damage while we look for the cause and recall the products,” he added.

The health problems may have been caused by products containing red yeast rice (“beni-koji” in Japanese), a variety of rice yeast that takes on a reddish color when fermented.

KobayashiPharmaceutical has decided to voluntarily recall five products, including 300,000 packs of pills sold as a cholesterol-lowering supplement, of which the company had sold 1.06 million packs until last month, since the product was launched in 2021.

The company initiated an investigation after being notified by a doctor of health problems apparently related to consumption of the product, including symptoms such as fatigue or kidney dysfunction.

In addition to the products mentioned above, the company distributed red yeast rice to 52 other Japanese and foreign companies, which were also asked to withdraw the products from the market, in case they could also be affected by an unknown harmful ingredient that is causing the problems.

Japanese soy sauce producer Fujiyoshi Soy Sauce has announced the recall of two of its products, Genki Miso and Miso Kabosu Dressing, whose ingredients include red yeast rice from Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, although it has not confirmed any health incidents related to consumption.

In China, online sales of products subject to these voluntary recalls have been suspended, local media reported. The products were also recalled in Taiwan.


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