Beni-koji supplement users voice concerns amid reports of health issues

Osaka City authorities have ordered a major Japanese drug company to recall three dietary supplements that contain beni-koji red fermented rice.

The company has reported two deaths among users of one of the products.

City officials say the products have been sold over a wide area in Japan, so it is unclear when the company will be able to finish collecting them all.

Osaka-based Kobayashi Pharmaceutical revealed last week it had received reports of kidney problems from people who had consumed one of the supplements. The product is aimed at lowering cholesterol. Beni-koji is the key ingredient.

The health ministry says the company reported receiving around 3,000 inquiries from people who had consumed the products, and 106 people were hospitalized.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical says the first person who died had been taking its Beni-koji Choleste Help supplement. It says the second person who died had been taking the same product, according to the person's family.

A woman in her 40s told NHK she started taking the supplement last October, consuming three pills a day. She has not developed health issues so far but plans to visit a hospital soon to get checked out.

Health ministry officials met on Wednesday with Consumer Affairs Agency officials and others. The ministry said health issues have mainly been reported by people who took pills manufactured in or after last September.

The ministry says one of the two deaths was from acute kidney failure, and that a postmortem on the other person also revealed damage to the kidney. Clinics are preparing to answer questions from patients.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical said it is still gathering details of the deceased's history of beni-koji use, as well as when the person died. But it said there is a possibility that the beni-koji supplement caused the death, and that it will examine the circumstances thoroughly.