Authorities inspect Osaka factory over 'beni-koji' health scare

Japanese health authorities have inspected a pharmaceutical factory as they expand their investigation into dietary supplements linked to 5 deaths.

The factory operated by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical in the western city of Osaka produced the supplement containing "beni-koji" red yeast until last December. The aged factory was later shut down.

Health ministry and city officials spent 4.5 hours inspecting the building in Osaka's Yodogawa Ward.

They are believed to have checked the manufacturing process and the remaining equipment. They are also thought to have questioned company officials about the plant's operations.

An official of Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, Yamashita Kenji, said, "Our company will fully cooperate with the investigators and will respond sincerely. We are very sorry to have caused so much trouble and concern."

The drugmaker said as of Friday, 5 people had died and 114 others were hospitalized after using the beni-koji supplements. Those affected are said to have developed kidney and other health problems.

A health ministry official says that the company has identified a substance known as "puberulic acid" in samples. The material can result from blue mold. But authorities say a direct link has not yet been made between puberulic acid and the sicknesses.

Officials from the ministry plan to inspect another Kobayashi Pharmaceutical factory in Wakayama Prefecture on Sunday. Manufacturing equipment from the Osaka plant was transferred there before the factory shut down.