Fluorinated substances in paper packaging passed on to the cake table

18. mar 2016

A new test from the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals establishes the presence of problematic fluorinated substances in paper packaging for cakes such as frangipane tarts, raspberry Swiss rolls, carrot cakes and muffins. Manufacturers declare that they will phase out the substances.


Fluorinated substances in packaging
Photo: Anne Beck Christensen

If you serve a quick cake table consisting of ready-made frangipane tarts, raspberry Swiss rolls, carrot cakes or muffins, you risk that there will be an unwelcome guest at the table.

Fluorinated substances are water and grease repellent substances of very high concern which, among other things, are suspected of having endocrine disrupting effects. Research from the University of Southern Denmark last year showed that the presence of fluorinated substances in the blood could increase women’s risk of miscarriage by up to 16 times.

Still the substance is found in quantities far above the proposed threshold values in certain kinds of food packaging. This was established by the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ test of 16 different examples of cardboard and paper food packaging.

‘Fluorine substances are problematic among other things due to the suspected endocrine disrupting effects. Among the cakes we found four different kind of packaging which had content significantly above the proposed threshold value. Although the content is not against the law, it is our hope that powerful companies would take responsibility in this area where we are dealing with substances that are of very high concern for consumers’ health,’ says Stine Müller, project manager and test responsible with the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

She stresses that she cannot tell on the basis of the test whether fluorine substances have actually migrated from the packaging into food. However studies have previously shown that fluorine substances can migrate into food. So the healthiest solution is that they are not at all found in the packaging.

Manufacturers will phase out fluorine substances

The test included 16 different kinds of cardboard and paper food packagings. There was found only a small amount of fluorinated substances in paper bags for oatmeal, crispbread and flour. The same was true for the interlayer paper for sliced cheese, cake bottoms and pizza dough.

The manufacturers of the tested cakes promise that they will reduce the content of fluorine substances in the packaging.

DanCake is responsible for the tested frangipane tart. The company writes to the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals that, together with their suppliers, they have over a long period of time made an assessment of paper types and that they have almost finished phasing out paper with fluorine substances. The new cake will be sold in paper without fluorine substances from April, the company promises. A similar message was received from other manufacturers such as Nordthy A/S and Dansk Mærkevare Salg A/S.

‘We are very pleased to hear that manufacturers will find alternatives to fluorinated substances. Although each cake paper does not pose a risk to the consumer, we are exposed to these substances from many different sources in our daily lives and the overall exposure may be harmful. By removing the substances from the packaging the manufacturers ensure that there is one less possible source,’ says Stine Müller.

Mineral oils in all the tested packaging

Mineral oils in food packaging are controversial because some may be carcinogenic while others accumulate in the body organs.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals' laboratory test showed that all the tested packaging contained mineral oils.

In several products the content was below the threshold value proposed by Germany for cardboard and paper packaging in direct contact with food. Other products however had a significantly higher content. This was for instance the case for the box of lasagne sheets, the bag of crispbread and the paper bottom of the raspberry Swiss roll.

Mineral oils can be found in recycled paper and cardboard. But the oils may for instance also originate from printing and production equipment.

Mineral oils can be absorbed by the food inside the packaging.


For more information:

Mrs Stine Müller, sm@fbr.dk