A Japanese pharmaceutical group said Tuesday it was investigating one death and having received reports of several dozen hospitalizations, these cases being potentially linked to food supplements for which it had announced a recall last week. Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, a company based in Osaka (west), had already recognized on Monday that the hospitalization of 26 people was possibly linked to some of its food supplements, sold without a prescription.

Now the company has received reports of 50 additional hospitalizations as of Tuesday morning, but which are not yet confirmed at this stage, a spokesperson for the group told AFP. All three product lines recalled by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical contain a type of yeast-fermented rice called “beni koji” or red yeast rice, which is believed to be a cholesterol-lowering agent.

The group specified that it had supplied this yeast to around fifty other companies in Japan and two in Taiwan. “We are aware of one case with a potential causal link between a death and our product,” Kobayashi Pharmaceutical said in a statement. “We are currently investigating this link and what happened,” added the group, which offered its “deepest apologies”.

The deceased had regularly purchased one of the recalled products for nearly three years, according to the manufacturer. Japanese Health Minister Keizo Takemi told reporters on Tuesday that his ministry had asked Kobayashi Pharmaceutical to quickly provide more information. The ministry “will cooperate with the city of Osaka to investigate the cause (of the case, Editor’s note) and prevent further health damage,” assured Keizo Takemi.

The recall of three product lines, announced Friday by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, followed customer complaints about kidney problems. The group said Monday that no conclusions had been drawn as to a possible cause and effect link between its food supplements and hospitalizations. “After analysis, we found that it was possible that the raw materials used to make beni koji contained ingredients that our company did not intend to include,” the group admitted, however.

According to him, his analyzes did not reveal the presence of citrinin, a toxic substance which can develop in red yeast rice and which can cause kidney problems. Local media reported that Kobayashi Pharmaceutical officials would visit the deceased’s family on Tuesday.