Denmark becomes first country to ban all PFAS from food contact materials

September 3, 2019

Autotranslated from the official Danish Government Press Release

Danish Food Minister Mogens Jensen wants to ban harmful fluorine in food packaging.

Cardboard and paper for food packaging can be treated with fluorinated substances [PFAS] to give the surface a grease and water repellency. This treatment is used for the packaging of burgers and other fast food, parchment paper, and other food contact surfaces that, due to contact with greasy and wet foods, needs this effect. Fortunately, paper can also be made grease- and water-repellent without the use of fluorinated substances.

The problem with the fluorinated substances is that they are very slow to break down in the environment, and some of them accumulate in humans and animals. In addition, many of them are suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and harmful to the immune system.

The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration has long advised against the use of fluorinated substances in cardboard and paper for food packaging, and parts of the retail trade have voluntarily phased out the substances, but analyses show that these substances may still be in the food packaging. 

"I do not want to accept the risk of harmful fluorinated substances migrating from the packaging and into our food. These substances represent such a health problem that we can no longer wait for the EU," said Food Minister Mogens Jensen. The ban is being presented at a hearing today and should apply until the EU regulates these chemicals. 

What is banned?
The ban includes the use of all organic fluorinated compounds in cardboard and paper food contact materials. Recycled paper and cardboard food packaging will still be permitted, but if there is a fluorinated substance in the material, then it must be separated from the food with a barrier which ensures that chemical does not migrate into the food.

The ban has been submitted for external review on the government’s consultation portal. The National Food Authority expects the ban to take effect in July 2020.