Fast food packaging contains unwanted fluorinated substances

9. mar 2017

One third of 65 types of fast food packaging contains problematic fluorinated substances in high levels. This is the results of a new European test. The substances are suspected of increasing the risk of miscarriage and of having a negative influence on the immune system.

gruppebillede.jpg

Fast food packaging contains unwanted fluorinated substances
Photo: Benjamin Media

When you order French fries, hamburgers or muffins wrapped in paper packaging in a fast food restaurant, you run the risk of adding problematic chemicals to the menu.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has conducted a survey of fast food packaging in cooperation with consumer organisations from four other EU countries. It shows that nearly one third of the 65 tested fast food packaging contained fluorinated substances in high levels. The levels indicate intentional use of fluorinated substances for treatment of the surface of the packaging material. Another 12 samples also showed elevated levels of fluorinated substances although in lower levels.

The results of the test of the packaging from Danish fast food restaurants were similar to those of the other EU countries in the survey – Belgium, Spain, Italy and Portugal

In Denmark 4 of 13 types of paper packaging contained fluorinated substances in significantly higher quantities than the recommended limit value set by the Danish authorities.

“In Denmark we have had a recommended limit value for one and a half years in an attempt to make companies stop using the fluorinated substances in paper packaging. Nevertheless we find as many types of paper packaging in Denmark with high levels of fluorinated substances as is found in the other EU countries in the test. This calls for more than just a recommended limit value if we want to phase out fluorinated substances of food packaging,” says project manager in the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals, Stine Müller.

The wrappings from four Danish products from Sunset Boulevard, Select (Shell), Meyers and McDonald’s contained levels of fluorinated substances was 600 to 1,700 times higher than the recommended limit value set by the Danish authorities. The wrappings were sandwich paper, paper bags for French fries and muffin forms.

Danish authorities work for regulation in the EU

In paper and cardboard fluorinated substances are used for making the materials resistant to water and grease. But the substances also accumulate in the environment and in humans. They are among other things suspected of having a negative influence on the immune system, and results from Danish scientists also indicates that content of fluorinated substances in the blood of pregnant women increases the risk of miscarriage significantly.

The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration recommends that manufacturers do not use the problematic substances in food packaging. Consequently Denmark introduced a recommended limit value in 2015 which still has support from the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food. The Danish authorities also work for regulation of the fluorinated substances at EU level.

“Tests from the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals and controls from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration have shown that fluorinated substances are used intentionally by several Danish manufacturers in many different products. As expected this new European test reveals that the problem was not confined to Denmark, but also to a number of other EU countries. Therefore it is important that Denmark keeps pushing the agenda in the EU in order to have the use of fluorinated substances limited to a minimum in the entire EU. Naturally, we would like Denmark to take the lead on the matter,” says Stine Müller.

In regard to the fluorinated wrappings bought in Denmark the companies Meyers and Sunset Boulevard say that the substances have now been phased out. Select (Shell) and McDonald’s will examine the possibility of following the recommendations from the Danish authorities.

For further questions about the test contact Stine Müller, project manager in the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals by e-mail sm@fbr.dk.