The eyes of the world have turned towards Japan as the island nation was hit first by a 9.0 earthquake, then a tidal wave, and the damage to some of its nuclear plants. Fears over radiation leaks grew in the US, and consumers rushed to stores to buy potassium iodide tablets.
The Fukushima Daiichi power plant's severity status was recently raised to seven, the highest level, and, according to the BBC, 370,000 terabecquerels of radiation have been released as of 12 April. Tens of thousands of people from affected areas have been evacuated.
According to the FDA website: “Potassium iodide is the only FDA-approved medication available to treat contamination with radioactive iodine.”
A host of experts has attempted to calm concerns that the US would be significantly affected. While all this was taking place, Maypro was quietly working with a Japanese partner to provide potassium iodide tablets free to people in affected regions of Japan. Maypro is affiliated with Marubeni Corporation, one of Japan’s largest conglomerates.
From fundraising to KI tablets
Dan Lifton, vice president of Maypro Industries, told NutraIngredients-USA that the company has shipped 10,000 bottles to its Japanese partner, an online retailer called Kenko.com, which has the infrastructure within Japan to ship to individuals in affected areas. However, Lifton notes that 10,000 bottles was the most that Kenko.com could immediately deploy in the area closest to the reactor.
The company has another 10,000 shipment scheduled to go soon, added Lifton.
“We didn’t set out to donate potassium iodide,” he said. “The plan was to do fundraising, do something connected to the industry, and then we saw the US and UK embassies handing out potassium iodide to their nationals, but not the local population.”
“We did not want to bring a lot of attention to this at a time when the nuclear reactor catastrophe was in the daily headlines,” said Lifton. “Our concern was that it could signal that things are worse than they are and negatively impact Japanese nutraceuticals manufacturers.
“I think that the time of paranoia has now passed,” he said.
Commenting on the doses in the donated supplements, Lifton notes that each bottle has 30 pills of 37.5mg/pill. “This is equivalent to a 7.5 day supply of 150mg/day which is the recommended adult dosage in case of radiation exposure,” he explained. “We made 37.5mg pills since the dosage for children is lower.
“The label made it very clear that the product should only be taken when notified by the authorities,” he added.
Two US companies have received FDA warning letter for “promoting a variety of fraudulent products that claim to prevent or treat the harmful effects of radiation exposure from the nuclear power plant incident in Japan as a consequence of the earthquake and tsunami”, says FDA.