Minister calls for tighter EU controls, citing ‘good experience’ with German limit

The Danish government has announced an advisory limit on the use of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in paper and cardboard food packaging.

Announcing the limit – which is designed to act as a ban – environment minister Eva Kjer Jansen said: “Consumer safety is paramount and there should not be harmful fluorinated substances in the paper and paperboard in contact with our food.”

Germany, said 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 Ms Hansen wants the European Commission to propose tighter regulation at EU-level.

NGO ChemTrust said Denmark would be within its rights to make the restrictions legally binding, given the lack of harmonised 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 it 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 card food packaging.

Meanwhile, the Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) is conducting a study to evaluate whether additional EU measures are necessary for the regulation of non-plastic food contact materials (FCMs), such as paper and board (CW 30 June 2015).

A wide ranging REACH restriction on the use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and related substances in the EU is under discussion (CW 25 June 2015).