'Beni-koji' recall came over 2 months after first reports of health damage

Japanese drugmaker Kobayashi Pharmaceutical says it first learned of possible health problems among users of its supplements in mid-January, more than two months before the products were voluntarily recalled.

The Osaka-based firm is pulling back three types of health supplements containing a kind of yeast-fermented rice called "beni-koji." This follows reports that some people who consumed the products developed kidney problems.

The recall was announced on March 22. Kobayashi Pharmaceutical says it was on January 15 that it first received reports of suspected health damage from a supplement user and a doctor.

The company says it initially couldn't tell whether its products may have been the cause, and that it needed time to investigate.

Health minister Takemi Keizo told reporters on Tuesday it is regrettable that the company waited more than two months before issuing the recall and that it failed to keep the government informed.

Takemi said the health ministry is posting information on the recall on its website. He said the ministry will cooperate with Osaka City and others to find out the cause of the health problems and take steps to prevent further damage.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical says 26 people who had consumed the recalled products are confirmed to have been hospitalized. The supplements were advertised as being effective in lowering bad cholesterol.

The company's "beni-koji" red yeast rice is known to have been sold to dozens of other food and beverage firms. Some of them have also issued voluntary recalls of products containing the ingredient.