Red fermented rice

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Red fermented rice

Red yeast rice (also Rotschimmelreis , Chinese  紅麴米  /  红曲米 , Pinyin hóngqūmǐ , English red yeast rice , short 紅麴  /  红曲 , Hongqu , regional Angkak ) is a traditional Chinese preparation of boiled, white rice , which by the Mold Monascus purpureus is fermented. Numerous substances are formed during fermentation, some of which cause the intense red color that gives it its name. When dried and ground, it is known as red rice flour .

Red fermented rice should not be confused with red or red-skinned rice varieties .

Red fermented rice has long been used in East Asia as a flavoring and coloring agent for food, and also as a remedy to promote digestion and blood circulation. When processed as a powder, it is used to color meat and meat dishes such as Peking duck , and is also said to have a preservative effect. Recently, red mold rice preparations have also been used as dietary supplements in Western countries due to the positive health effects attributed to them . These industrially manufactured preparations are sold on the Chinese market, for example, under the product names “Zibituo” ( 脂 必妥 , Zhībìtuǒ ) or “Xuezhikang” ( 血脂康 , Xuèzhīkāng ).

Use and effect

In the 16th century at the latest, rice and rice flour found their way into traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of heart problems (Li Shizhen: Book of Healing Herbs ). According to Chinese studies since the 1990s, red rice flour is said to be effective in increasing blood lipid levels and also to indirectly show positive effects on high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes .


The lipid-lowering effects are mainly caused by the monacolins present in red fermented rice , as they inhibit an enzyme in the liver that is necessary for the body's own production of cholesterol . One representative, monacolin K, is identical to lovastatin, which has been used as a medicinal substance for the treatment of high cholesterol levels since 1987 .

Red mold rice also contains various red, orange-red and yellow pigments , the mold toxin citrinine and other compounds from the secondary metabolism of Monsascus ssp. (for example monakarine, monascopyrdine, monascodilon, ancalactone and γ-aminobutyric acid ).

Health related information

Health claims in the labeling of foods, including food supplements, are only permitted if they have passed the evaluation procedure of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and are approved by the Health Claims Regulation . The following statement is permitted for red mold rice: "Monacolin K from red mold rice helps maintain normal cholesterol levels in the blood." The conditions for using the statement apply: "The statement may only be used for foods that consume a daily intake of 10 mg Monacolin K guaranteed from red mold rice. In order for the claim to be permissible, consumers must be informed that the positive effect is achieved with a daily intake of 10 mg Monacolin K from red mold rice preparations. "

Problem of product delimitation

Because of the pharmacological effect of Monacolin K, there is partly the opinion that food supplements made from red mold rice should be regarded as medicinal products. In the USA in 2000 the Food and Drug Administration classified the red mold rice preparation “Cholestin” sold as a dietary supplement as a medicinal product. In Germany, in 2002 the supervisory authorities had denied that a preparation called “Red Rice Capsules” could be marketed as a dietary supplement and prohibited it from being placed on the market . In 2006, the Lower Saxony Higher Administrative Court confirmed with a corresponding judgment that the agent was to be regarded as a medicinal product subject to authorization . Three years later, the ECJ came to a different view, namely that the “Red Rice capsules” were not medicinal products.

The problem of demarcation is still current. The German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) warned again in February 2016 against food supplements made from red fermented rice, since "products with a daily dose of 5 mg monacolin K or more should be classified as medicinal products". The possible pharmacological effects and possible health risks of monacolin K and other ingredients played a role in this assessment. In a safety assessment of monacolin K in red mold rice in 2018, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) came to the conclusion that no safe daily intake could be specified for the substance in food supplements. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) agrees with this assessment and recommends not to consume food supplements containing red mold rice. If they were taken anyway, this should only be done after medical consultation and control.

A product is classified as a dietary supplement or drug regardless of whether a “health claim” has been approved or not. The classification is significant in light of the fact that pharmaceuticals and foods each fall under a different law.

Red mold rice preparations are not marketable in Switzerland.

Monacolin K is used therapeutically as a medicinal substance under the name Lovastatin in doses of 10 mg to 80 mg daily; the preparations require a prescription.

Web links

Commons : Red Fermented Rice  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Toxicological assessment of red mold rice: update. Final version of December 18, 2012 German Research Foundation , December 18, 2012.
  2. List of tested and approved health claims for food (PDF; 1.1 MB), accessed on July 12, 2019 .
  3. Sorelle, R .: Appeals Court Says Food and Drug Administration Can Regulate cholestin , Circulation., 2000
  4. Lower Saxony OVG, judgment of March 23, 2006, Az .: 11 LC 180/05 .
  5. ECJ, judgment of January 15, 2009, Az .: C-140/07 .
  6. ^ Opinion of the Joint Expert Commission BVL / BfArM: Classification of red mold rice products (02/2016) ( Memento from March 9, 2016 in the Internet Archive ; PDF; 1.2 MB), accessed on July 12, 2019.
  7. BfArM warns again against Red Rice food supplements: Products with a daily dose of 5 mg monacolin K or more are to be classified as medicinal products. , at, accessed on February 25, 2016.
  8. Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR): Cholesterol lowering with consequences: only take food supplements with red mold rice after consulting a doctor. January 15, 2020, accessed February 21, 2020 .
  9. Swissmedic , February 2014: Marketing of preparations containing Monascus purpureus (red mold rice, red rice yeast) is not permitted in Switzerland ( Memento of March 5, 2016 in the Internet Archive ; PDF; 196 kB), accessed on July 12, 2019.