Kobayashi Pharmaceutical: Supplement user died this year

A major Japanese drug company says a person who had been taking one of its health supplements containing red fermented rice, has died of kidney disease.

More than 70 people who had been using its products have now been confirmed or reported to be hospitalized.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical on Friday issued a voluntary recall for "Benikoji ColesteHelp" and other products. The dietary supplement is aimed at lowering cholesterol.
Red fermented rice, also known as, beni-koji is the key ingredient. The company has sold more than a million packages since 2021.
Kobayashi Pharmaceutical announced on Tuesday that a customer who had bought the supplement for about three consecutive years died earlier this year.
It says it suspects a causal relationship between "Benikoji ColesteHelp" and the death, though the official cause is still unknown.
Some red fermented rice can produce a toxin called citrinin which can damage the kidneys.

The company said on Friday that citrinin has not been detected in the supplement in question.

This food safety expert says it's possible that a highly toxic substance was for some reason mixed into the product.
University of Tokyo Professor emeritus Karaki Hideaki says companies that handle microorganisms or fungi have very strict protective measures in place so that there is no contamination from outside.
Karaki says he believes the situation could be caused by either an unexpected accident, or human involvement.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary says the government plans to conduct a hearing with Kobayashi Pharmaceutical about its response, and will take proper action based on the results.