Dutch paracetamol contaminated with cancer-causing chemical

Dutchies are usually big fans of paracetamol, no matter what the illness, but could be set to change. Traces of a carcinogenic substance have been found in paracetamol sold in the Netherlands.

This finding has come to light as a result of an investigation by NRC and the television programme Zembla. The paracetamol in question was manufactured in China by Anqiu Lu’an Pharmaceutical. It has been contaminated by 4-chloroaniline, usually abbreviated to abbreviated PCA. This is a substance that occurs during the production of paracetamol anyway, but definitely should not end up in the finished product.

Opinions are divided on how worrisome this finding actually is, however. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) says that a person could take six contaminated pills a day without it becoming dangerous. However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has a different opinion: they say that even one pill a day poses an unacceptable cancer risk. This is because PCA has the potential to alter a person’s DNA.

It is not clear where the contaminated paracetamol has ended up. In the Netherlands, two billion paracetamol pills are sold each year, and about half of those are made by the Apotex pharmaceutical company in Leiden. Apotex uses Anqiu Lu’an, the pharmaceutical company which made the contaminated pills, as its main raw material supplier, and has done for the past few years.

Apotex supplies paracetamol to be sold in Albert Heijn, Etos, Jumbo, Trekpleister, DA and Kruidvat, so if you’re wondering if your paracetamol could be contaminated, there isn’t really a simple answer. The Medicines Evaluation Board (MEB) has decided that it won’t be pursuing the matter further, so don’t expect any product recalls or a deeper investigation.

Do you think there should be a full investigation into this? Let us know in the comments below.

Feature Image: Pexels/Pixabay

Ailish Lalor
Ailish Lalor
Ailish was born in Sydney, Australia, but grew up by a forest in south-east Ireland, which she has attempted to replace with a living room filled with plants in The Hague. Besides catering to her army of pannenkoekenplantjes, Ailish spends her days convincing her friends that all food is better slightly burnt, plotting ways to hang out with dogs and cats, and of course, writing for DutchReview.


  1. Of course, we should be able to take the a full investigation of ANY food or medicin safety issues for granted. It is one of the most important tasks of any government to keep its residents safe. Of course, in a country whose economy relies so heavily on the pharmaceurical companies that are based here, it isn’t a complete surprise that they will not investigate. But it is also interesting why exactly these pills were investigated. And then directly by the media instead of a public institution….


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