September 2, 2015  
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Denmark Announces Advisory Ban on PFCs in Paper Food Packaging

(Editor' Note: This article is based on a news release from of August 26, 2015.)

The Danish government recently announced an advisory limit on the use of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in paper and cardboard food packaging, leading to a discussion this week about how the EU as a whole should confront this potential health issue.

Announcing the limit—which is designed to act as a ban—environmental minister Eva Kjer Jansen commented that consumer safety is paramount and there should not be harmful fluorinated substances in the paper and paperboard in contact with food.

Germany, according to a ministry statement, has "good experience with a similar guideline limit, where most companies make use of the limit in the production of packaging made of cardboard and paper. Many companies also work already underway to find alternatives to the substances." However, the ministry says there is need for a European solution, and Jansen wants the European Commission to propose tighter regulation at EU-level.

In the meantime, NGO ChemTrust said Denmark would be within its rights to make the restrictions legally binding, given the lack of harmonized EU regulation for paper and board food contact materials.

"Given that Denmark does have a record of bringing in national controls on chemicals, it would be wise for companies to take notice—and I suspect that if they don’t, this could well help create pressure for a legal ban," said executive director Michael Warhurst.

The Danish Consumer Council said it is difficult to tell what effect the advisory limit will have, as there are no direct consequences for companies that do not comply.

But the council hopes the ministry’s action will help its campaign to stop the use of PFCs. "It's a signal for companies that a ban might be around the corner," said Christel Soegaard Kirkeby, of the council's Think Chemicals initiative. "Companies won't be able to say any more that their products are safe if they are not following government guidelines".

ChemTrust said it hopes Denmark’s move will trigger action by the Commission, both on PFCs and on the wider issue of "inadequate regulation" of chemicals in paper and paperboard food packaging. Meanwhile, the Commission’s Joint Research Center is conducting a study to evaluate whether additional EU measures are necessary for the regulation of non-plastic food contact materials such as paper and paperboard.

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