This is why supplements need to be regulated as well

It is a common problem around the world that supplements are not regulated as heavily as medicine and food in general, which causes some serious problems from time to time. Here is the latest example from Japan:

5 dead, 114 hospitalized from recalled Japanese health supplements

In the week since a line of Japanese health supplements began being recalled, five people have died and more than 100 people were hospitalized as of Friday.

Osaka-based Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co came under fire for not going public quickly with problems known internally as early as January. The first public announcement came March 22.

Company officials said 114 people were being treated in hospitals after taking products, including Benikoji Choleste Help meant to lower cholesterol, that contain an ingredient called benikoji, a red species of mold. Earlier in the week, the number of deaths stood at two people.

Some people developed kidney problems after taking the supplements, but the exact cause was still under investigation in cooperation with government laboratories, according to the manufacturer.

The company’s products have been recalled — as have dozens of other products that contain benikoji, including miso paste, crackers and a vinegar dressing. Japan’s health ministry put up a list on its official site of all the recalled products, including some that use benikoji for food coloring.

The ministry warned the deaths could keep growing. The supplements could be bought at drug stores without a prescription from a doctor, and some may have been purchased or exported before the recall, including by tourists who may not be aware of the health risks.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical had been selling benikoji products for years, with a million packages sold over the past three fiscal years, but a problem crept up with the supplements produced in 2023. Kobayashi Pharmaceutical said it produced 18.5 tons of benikoji last year.

Some analysts blame the recent deregulation initiatives, which simplified and sped up approval for health products to spur economic growth.

Note the last line – there has been deregulation initiatives for “health products”. I hope they are rolled back quickly, or this will not be the last time something like this happens in Japan.


  1. Katydid says

    This is horrible–those poor people who were trying to improve their health were poisoned and some were killed because oversight was lessened.

    In the USA, thanks mostly to the work of (now-deceased) Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah, products marked as suppelments do not have to undergo review–not even to ensure that what is claimed to be sold on the label is actually what’s in the capsule. Utah is home to the Mormons, a religious group that is well-known for selling potions and lotions and oils and pills that claim incredible things…but do very little. And then they sell these things to each other in a hope to become rich.