Finding on Japan red yeast rice products favors Taiwan consumers: TFDA

Taipei, May 29 (CNA) Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) said Wednesday that the Japanese government’s confirmation that a toxic substance found in red yeast rice supplements produced by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co. may cause kidney damage is favorable to consumers in Taiwan who might seek compensation.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced Tuesday that toxic puberulic acid found in Kobayashi Pharmaceutical’s dietary supplements can cause renal tubular necrosis, citing animal experiments.

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Officials with the Japanese ministry said they suspect that blue mold, which generates the acid, was accidentally mixed in during the cultivation of red yeast rice at the factory.

However, the acid’s effects on kidney function with repeated low dosages are yet to be determined, the Japanese ministry said.

According to TFDA statistics, in Taiwan, there have been a total of 64 reports of adverse reactions by people who consumed red yeast rice-related products from Kobayashi Pharmaceutical.

TFDA Deputy Director-General Lin Chin-fu (林金富) said Wednesday that domestic complaints have all been transferred to consumer protection agencies for assistance.

Now with the Japanese finding, if further investigations point to legal liability on the part of Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, compensation claims will be easier to file, Lin said.

Lin pointed out that Taiwan is currently unable to test for puberulic acid due to lack of specimens and testing methods, which Japan has not provided despite requests to do so.

He reassured local consumers that related products in Taiwan were removed from shelves in late March.

According to the Japanese health ministry, as of Monday, five people in Japan have died from consuming the problematic dietary supplements, with 281 others being hospitalized.

Asked about the matter, Taiwanese toxicologist Yen Tzung-Hai (顏宗海) told the press via a telephone interview that little is medically known about the acid, including its acceptable daily intake, half life and metabolic mechanisms.

However, he reaffirmed that no puberulic acid should be detected during the standard fermentation process of red yeast rice products, if the standard operating procedure (SOP) protocol is followed.

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