“The Red Yeast Rice Incident” Continues to Ferment, Japanese Functional Label Foods Fall into Trust Crisis

In the past two months, the scandal over Kobayashi Pharmaceutical’s red yeast rice health products has been escalating, causing quite a stir in the health product industry and igniting a trust crisis among consumers towards Japanese functional label foods. The red yeast rice component in Kobayashi Pharmaceutical products is mainly red yeast rice, often made by fermenting rice with red mold. In China, red yeast rice can be used as a colorant. Depending on the strain of red mold and fermentation conditions used, the mold will produce various pigments, thereby giving red yeast rice its unique color and some pharmacologically active ingredients (such as Monacolin K / Lovastatin), which can be used to reduce cholesterol. Theoretically, the red yeast components produced by fermenting rice with red yeast mold are safe. However, the complex fermentation process might possibly produce toxic by-products such as citrinin, which can have harmful effects on the body.

In Japan, functional labeled foods have been under the spotlight since they were introduced in 2015. Without the need for government review, by April 8, 2024, Japan had approved 8,185 functional labeled foods. However, the red yeast rice incident has revealed shortcomings in this regulatory mechanism, pressing pause on the rapid growth of the functional labeled food market. (Source: FTA)

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