A sprawling health scandal involving Kobayashi Pharmaceutical’s dietary supplements has caused a public scare around beni kōji (rice fermented with red yeast), with some worried consumers rushing to inquire about the safety of the food ingredient used by businesses with no links to the Osaka-based drugmaker.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical has so far reported the deaths of five people and over 110 hospitalizations linked to its dietary supplements containing beni kо̄ji. The firm has said a chemical compound naturally made by blue mold may have been mixed in during the production process of beni kо̄ji at one of its factories.

The scandal, however, has spread to makers and marketers of beni kо̄ji unrelated to the firm. The red yeast rice has been widely used in Japan and elsewhere as a food additive, and features prominently in Okinawan cuisine, particularly in a dish called tōfuyō.