Govt. discovers second death linked to health supplements

Japan's health ministry says a major Japanese drug maker has reported the second death of a person who had taken its health supplements containing red yeast rice, or "beni-koji."

Osaka-based Kobayashi Pharmaceutical issued a voluntary recall last week for three products containing the ingredient.

The move came after the revelation that some people have developed kidney disease or other health issues after consuming one of those products.

The health ministry questioned the drugmaker on Tuesday and published their findings. It had been earlier found that one supplement user died.

The ministry said details of the second death are not yet known. But it said it confirmed a doctor's written comment saying the person's kidney was damaged.

The questioning also found that Kobayashi Pharmaceutical has been contacted by about 3,000 supplement users voicing their health concerns.

The company also told the ministry that 106 people have been hospitalized so far, but it has not yet confirmed whether there is any link between the red yeast rice in question and health problems.

Ministry officials suspect the three products the company has been recalling contain harmful substances.

The ministry has sent a notification to the Osaka city government to urge local officials to take measures such as ordering the company to dispose of the products in accordance with the Food Sanitation Act.

The health ministry will hold a meeting of relevant ministry officials on Wednesday to discuss this matter. It also plans to convene an investigative committee of experts as early as later this week.