Share article:
Share article:

‘Odds are high’ of carcinogenic painkillers in Belgium

Credit: Belga

The world’s largest producer of the active pharmaceutical ingredient in paracetamol has sold batches contaminated with a cancer-causing substance, Dutch newspaper NRC and the documentary programme Zembla found.

Anqiu Lu’an Pharmaceutical, the Chinese company in question, “has supplied the raw material used in much of the paracetamol sold in chemists, supermarkets and pharmacies throughout the Netherlands,” according to NRC.

“The odds are high that they were also sold in our country,” Belgian toxicologist Jan Tytgat of the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) told Het Laatste Nieuws. “One has to trace those contaminated painkillers and take them off the market.”

Related Articles


Samples from three batches of the active ingredient were sent to a laboratory in Germany, which found that they were all contaminated with 4-chloroaniline, or PCA. The substance is formed when producing paracetamol and is a genotoxic carcinogen, according to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This means it can damage genetic information and thus cause cancer.

Someone taking over six tablets would exceed the EMA’s guidelines for tolerable daily intake, while EFSA considers that taking more than one contaminated tablet per day “may already lead to an unacceptable risk of cancer,” NRC said.

“Above this margin, there is a substantiated risk that PCA is carcinogenic,” said Tytgat, referring to the EFSA norm. “PCA does not belong in a painkiller that is used by so many people,” he added.

Tytgat was of the opinion that batches of the active ingredient from factories using the same production methods should also be tested, as was Emeritus Professor of Toxicology at Utrecht University, Martin van den Berg.

As a result of the discovery, Federal MP Kathleen Depoorter has called on Health Minister Maggie De Block to investigate the presence of possible carcinogenic paracetamol in Belgium.

“Paracetamol is a medicine that almost everyone takes, we cannot afford to take a single risk,” Depoorter said. The Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products believes that nine medicines in Belgium could be concerned, according to Het Belang van Limburg.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Cinemas will require Covid Safe Ticket from Friday
The Covid Safe Ticket (CST) will be required to attend cinemas across Belgium from Friday, which marks the start of the autumn holidays, the ...
Disastrous year for Belgian beekeepers
Belgian beekeepers have experienced a disastrous year, with honey production 50 to 60 percent lower than last year due to heavy rainfall during ...
New measures for schools considered as situation becomes ‘untenable’
Belgium's various education partners met on Wednesday to discuss additional measures to implement in schools as the coronavirus situation worsens in ...
Belgium in Brief: Back To Masks
I really hope you didn't throw out all your masks. You'll be needing them again. Now I do appreciate that this isn't a huge change for ...
Belgium a climate slowcoach as EU reveals emissions progress
The European Union is on track to pass its first big climate test, according to new figures published this week. But Belgium has been singled out for ...
Limiting private contacts ‘needed to fight autumn wave’, expert warns
The Consultative Committee announced it is introducing a handful of measures in public spaces to control the quickening spread of the coronavirus, ...
Belgium’s decision on possible third shot postponed until Saturday
The decision on how Belgium will proceed with the roll-out of third shots of the coronavirus vaccine has been postponed until Saturday.  The news ...
Experts and politicians respond to new coronavirus measures
The handful of measures (re-)introduced by Belgium's Consultative Committee on Tuesday in response to the worsening coronavirus situation have had a ...
New fraudulent e-mails circulating in Belgium
A warning has been put out about new phishing e-mails that have been circulating since last Saturday and are sent from what could appear to be an ...
Belgian ‘Space Bakery’ project highlighted at World Expo in Dubai
The Puratos Space Bakery project is taking centre stage at the Belgian pavilion in Dubai, where the World Expo is taking place. This week is ...
Brussels metro lines disrupted by strike action
Four of the Brussels metro lines (M1, M2, M5, and M6) are delayed on Wednesday morning following union strikes commencing at 9:00 AM. The Brussels ...
Arrival of Dutch company will double the number of rental mopeds in Brussels
The arrival of 500 new e-mopeds from Dutch rental company GO Sharing will double the amount of rental mopeds in Brussels. While sometimes also ...