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Japanese authorities raid a factory making health supplements linked to 5 deaths – news today

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TOKYO — Japanese government health officials raided a factory Saturday producing health supplements that they say have killed at least five people and hospitalized more than 100 others.

About a dozen people wearing dark suits solemnly walked into the Osaka plant of Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co. in the raid shown widely on Japanese TV news, including public broadcaster NHK.

The company says little is known about the exact cause of the sicknesses, which include kidney failure. An investigation into the products is underway in cooperation with government health authorities.

The supplements all used “benikoji,” a kind of red mold. Kobayashi Pharmaceuticals’ pink pills called Benikoji Choleste Help were billed as helping lower cholesterol levels.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, based in the western Japanese city of Osaka, said about a million packages were sold over the past three fiscal years. It also sold benikoji to other manufacturers, and some products have been exported. The supplements could be bought at drug stores without a prescription from a doctor.

Reports of health problems surfaced in 2023, although benikoji has been used in various products for years.

Company president Akihiro Kobayashi has apologized for not having acted sooner. The recall came March 22, two months after the company had received official medical reports about the problem.

On Friday, the company said five people had died and 114 people were being treated in hospitals after taking the products. Japan’s health ministry says the supplements are responsible for the deaths and illnesses, and warned that the number of those affected could grow.

Some analysts blame the recent deregulation initiatives, which simplified and sped up approval for health products to spur economic growth. But deaths from a mass-produced item is rare in Japan, as government checks over consumer products are relatively stringent.

The government has ordered a review of the approval system in response to the supplement-related illnesses. A report is due in May.

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Yuri Kageyama is on X: https://twitter.com/yurikageyama



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