Vitamins and Dietary supplements

Functional Food and Supplement Sales Decline in Japan Following Deaths

Consumers in Japan are shying away from dietary supplements and functional food products following a health scare from red yeast rice products manufactured by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical (Osaka, Japan).

Since March, more than 100 people have been hospitalized and five people died, after taking Kobayashi products containing red yeast rice (called beni koji in Japanese). A recall has been issued, according to the company. The cause is still under investigation.

“Determining a cause and preventing the incident from occurring again is our responsibility. I will make sure as the company’s head to get that done,” Akihiro Kobayashi, president of Kobayashi, told Japanese media. “The substance in question could have been derived from mold, but we have yet to ascertain which chemical structure it has.”

According to data from Nikkei POS, a retail data collection system, sales of functional foods and beverages declined 6.7 percent during the week of March 11 due to inflated prices. However, prices decreased to 10.4 percent the week of March 18 (when Kobayashi recalled its products) and dipped by 11 percent the week of April 1.

Other manufacturers are also reporting a 20 to 30 percent decrease in sales following the health scare. Two cosmetics and supplements manufacturers, Fancl and DHC, reported concerns from their customers. Fancl saw a tenfold jump in order cancellations and DHC received more than 12,000 inquiries from customers. Neither brand uses beni koji as ingredients.

Unlike pharmaceutical products, functional foods do not need to be managed under Japan’s Good Manufacturing Practice policies, as reported by Nikkei Asia.

“In some countries, manufacturers are required to promptly report issues, and Japan is clearly behind in this regard as well,” said Hideko Ikeda, head of the Japanese Institute for Health Food Standards.

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