Second Kobayashi Pharma Japan Factory Under Inspection Following Employee Deaths – Reuters

Second Kobayashi Pharma Japan Factory Under Inspection Following Employee Deaths – Reuters

TOKYO (Reuters) – Health authorities raided a second pharmaceutical factory in Kobayashi, western Japan, on Sunday after the company reported five deaths possibly linked to dietary supplements, an official said.

The inspection in Wakayama Prefecture follows Saturday’s inspection in Osaka, widening the investigation into the drugmaker’s use of red yeast “Beni-Koji.”

Osaka-based Kobayashi claims to have found what appeared to be potentially toxic puberulic acid that could have been produced by the penicillium blue mold in Beni-Koji materials produced between last April and October at the Osaka factory.

As of Friday, 114 people had been hospitalized and five had died after taking the supplements, marketed as helping lower cholesterol levels, the company said.

The cause of the deaths has not been confirmed, an official with Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare told Reuters. But “we suspect that Beni-Koji could be the cause, which is why we inspected two factories in two days.”

Kobayashi said Friday he has been investigating a suspected link between the products and their effects on the kidneys since he received reports of kidney illnesses linked to the products.

“We will fully cooperate with the investigation so that we can resolve the issues as quickly as possible,” Yuko Tomiyama, Kobayashi’s head of investor relations, told reporters on Sunday in footage broadcast by public broadcaster NHK.

The health official said the ministry would “join other relevant ministries to do everything possible to resolve the ongoing matter, while requesting Kobayashi Pharma to cooperate as necessary to investigate this matter.”

The factory in Osaka’s Yodogawa district was closed in December due to its aging facilities and production was moved to the factory in the city of Kinokawa which was raided on Sunday, Japanese media reported.

The government criticized the company for taking two months to announce the health impacts of its products. Kobayashi began recalling products on March 22 after receiving reports of kidney illnesses.

Its products are also consumed in other countries.

Japanese media reported that a case of acute kidney failure had been reported in Taiwan. Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration is investigating three “unexpected health reactions” that may be linked to materials imported from Kobayashi, Taiwan’s official news agency reported.

A Chinese consumer association urged consumers to stop using potentially affected products, saying it was concerned about the risk posed by Kobayashi products, state media reported Friday.

Japan’s Health Ministry is aware of the Taiwanese cases, the official said, declining to comment further on international cases.

Kobayashi sells Beni-Koji wholesale to 52 companies, which conducted voluntary inspections and found no materials requiring medical consultation on Friday, NHK said. These companies resell these materials to 173 other companies, the press release specifies.

TV Asahi reported that some 1,800 food producers could be affected.

Beni-Koji contains Monascus purpureus, a red mold used as a food coloring.

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