Distribution Destinations for Potentially Hazardous Benikoji Not Fully Known; Ingredient Sold by Japan’s Kobayashi Pharmaceutical

Courtesy of Kobayashi Pharmaceutical
“Beni-koji choleste-help”, the subject of a voluntary recall by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical

The distribution destinations for a significant amount of Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co.’s benikoji red rice mold, some of which contains an unknown substance with possible health risks, have yet to be fully identified.

The benikoji was sold as an ingredient not only to the company’s business partners but also to other companies through trading firms. The relevant companies are scrambling to gather information, but the extent of the impact remains unknown.

According to Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, it produced 18.5 tons of benikoji in 2023. The company used 2.4 tons of it to make its own supplement products, and sold the other 16.1 tons to 52 business partners.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Of the 16.1 tons that were sold, 6.9 tons were to be used for supplements, and some of that amount contains an unknown substance that is highly likely to cause kidney problems and other symptoms. The remaining 9.2 tons were for coloring and flavoring food products, and do not contain the unknown substance, the company said.

The 52 companies to which Kobayashi Pharmaceutical sold its benikoji include food manufacturers, cosmetics companies and trading houses that wholesale products to various other companies. At a meeting of relevant government ministries and agencies on Wednesday, it was reported that more than 170 companies have handled products in which Kobayashi Pharmaceutical’s benikoji is used as an ingredient. As even Kobayashi Pharmaceutical has yet to identify the final sales destinations of its benikoji, the impact could spread further.

Regarding the possibly contaminated benikoji, Osaka City’s public health center issued a written instruction to the pharmaceutical company to report the names of the companies to which it sold the ingredient, the date of the sale and the quantity sold, among other information, in accordance with the Food Sanitation Law.

So far, health problems have not been confirmed for products other than Kobayashi Pharmaceutical’s own, but companies that used the benikoji suspected to contain the unknown substance have expressed strong concern. Zero Plus Co. based in Fukuoka, which sells cheese crackers made with Kobayashi Pharmaceutical’s benikoji as a “functional food,” said Wednesday that it had withdrawn “function claims” for the product that had been submitted to the Consumer Affairs Agency.

Zero Plus had shipped a total of about 700 bags of cheese crackers since March 15, and is proceeding with a voluntary recall.

“We are investigating whether the product contains the substance that is likely to have caused [the health problems], but there have been no reports of problems,” a person of the company said.

Cosmetics maker Noevir Co. is also recalling its Noevir DHA & EPA supplement, a product launched in 2013.

“There have been no reports of health problems to date, but we are recalling the product as a precautionary measure,” a company representative said.