Print Friendly and PDF
Denmark to ban PFAS in food packaging
Credti: Phototropy/flickr

Denmark to ban PFAS in food packaging

The move, announced this week by the country's Ministry of Environment and Food, would make Denmark the first country to ban the toxics from food packaging.

Denmark will ban the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in paper and cardboard used in food packaging within the next year under a proposal from the country's Ministry of Environment and Food.


The ban, estimated to take effect by July 2020, would make Denmark the first country to ban the class of chemicals from food contact materials. PFAS chemicals are often used as water and grease repellents, winding up in paper and cardboards that come into contact with food. The compounds can then migrate into the food and people.

Exposure to the chemicals has been linked to multiple health impacts, including testicular and kidney cancers, decreased birth weights, thyroid disease, decreased sperm quality, high cholesterol, pregnancy-induced hypertension, asthma and ulcerative colitis.

"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," Denmark Food Minister Mogens Jensen said in a statement.

In addition to citing health concerns and European Union inaction, the Ministry of Environment and Food noted the chemicals are "very difficult to break down in the environment," and "accumulate in humans and animals."

PFAS compounds are also widespread in the U.S.—showing up in both drinking water and food. The Denmark ban comes just months after Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced a bill to ban PFAS in food containers and cookware. The bill, introduced in May, has yet to be heard by committee.

And just last month the U.S. nonprofit Environmental Working Group called for a U.S. ban on PFAS in food packaging. In calling for the ban, Scott Faber, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs for EWG, pointed out the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed 69 different PFAS compounds, produced by 19 chemical companies, in food packaging.

In recent years, Europe has made more progress than the U.S. on chemical regulation. In April, the EU Parliament called on EU countries to "swiftly take all necessary action" to regulate endocrine disrupting chemicals.

U.S. environmental nonprofit Green Science Policy Institute applauded Denmark's move and hopes it spurs similar action in the U.S.

"We congratulate Denmark on leading the way for healthier food and hope this will encourage similar action across the EU, the U.S. and worldwide," said Arlene Blum, PhD of the Green Science Policy Institute and the Department of Chemistry at UC Berkeley, in a statement.

"Given the potential for harm, we must ask if the convenience of water and grease resistance is worth risking our health."

Become a donor
Today's top news
From our newsroom

WATCH: Pete Myers and Tyrone Hayes reflect on tremendous progress in the environmental health field

"It isn't one scientific finding that accomplishes a structural change in science. It's a drumbeat — one after the other — for decades."

What happens if the largest owner of oil and gas wells in the US goes bankrupt?

Diversified Energy’s liabilities exceed its assets, according to a new report, sparking concerns about whether taxpayers will wind up paying to plug its 70,000 wells.

LISTEN: Gabriel Gadsden on the rodent infestation and energy justice connection

“What it really comes down to is political will and resource allocation.”

Listen: EHN reporter discusses EPA's new proposed air pollution limits

Kristina Marusic joined Pittsburgh's NPR news station to discuss the proposed new rules

Racist beauty standards leave communities of color more exposed to harmful chemicals: NYC study

"How do you change centuries of colonialism and racism that have always uplifted light and white skin tone and features?”