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161 complaints about health aids not reported to ministry.

TOKYO, July 19 Kyodo

At least 161 complaints and consultations about health care products received by local public health centers over the last three years were not reported to the health ministry, a ministry official said Friday.

The failure to report the cases came despite a 1988 order by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry's predecessor that local municipalities inform it of consumer complaints about health care products, the official said.

The ministry made inquiries to local municipalities after problems caused by diet aid products imported from China surfaced recently, the official said, adding the total number of unreported complaints is likely to increase since some municipalities have yet to respond to the ministry.

Immediately after problems with the Chinese products came to light, the section in charge of health care products at the ministry claimed no complaints about them had been reported by local municipalities.

The official said many of the 161 complaints had not been passed on by local municipalities from health care centers while others were sent to the wrong section in the ministry, admitting problems with the reporting system.

''Many municipalities did not report to the government probably because they considered the level of suffering was not that serious. Municipalities, as well as the government, lacked a sense of crisis,'' said Toshie Ikenaga, chief of the section. ''From now on, we will do our best to collect information.''

Of the 161 complaints, 73 concerned symptoms such as diarrhea, fever and vomiting, and 88 concerned products themselves, such as the discovery of foreign materials in them, the official said.

The 161 complaints were made between fiscal 1999-2001, and one case apparently involved liver dysfunction, but the cause-effect relationship was unknown, the official said. Some of the products subject to complaints were Chinese, Ikenaga said.

Consultations about health care products at consumer advisory centers nationwide totaled 14,826 in fiscal 2001 which ended March 31 this year, of which 444 involved complaints about health disorders, according to the ministry. Ibaraki Prefecture with 16, Fukuoka Prefecture with 14, Saitama Prefecture with 11, and Kyoto Prefecture with six.

Of the 171 people who reported health damage, 111 took Xianzhisu or Yuzhitang. The rest took other products.

The ministry statistics, which reflect health damage from Xianzhisu and Yuzhitang, are different from the tally, which combines statistics from municipal governments that have not all been reported to the ministry.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Jul 22, 2002
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