Frying pans marketed with unlawful PFAS claim
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Frying pans marketed with unlawful PFAS claim

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals have notified nine frying pans to the consumer ombudsman in Denmark. The frying pans are all marketed as being free from the banned substances PFOA or PFOS. At the same time they contain another fluorinated substance.

Claus Jørgensen og Katja Ravn · Foto: Katja Ravn · 25. oktober 2022

Frying pans are often marketed as being free from the fluorinated substances PFOA and PFOS. However, both substances are banned for use in consumer products. Companies are not allowed to market products as being free form banned substances.

In addition to the misleading marketing the products contain another fluorinated substance PTFE, better know as Teflon. PTFE is one of many fluorinated substances which belongs to the group of fluorinated substances known as PFAS.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has notified all of the frying pans to the consumer ombudsman for the illegal and misleading claim free of PFOA or PFOS.

”For years, it has been known that PFOA is problematic. For this reason, it is banned. Therefore it is unacceptable that the companies still use “PFOA-free” in their marketing. Our experience is that the consumers are mislead and believe that the products are without all the PFAS – which is not necessarily true. It is essential that the misleading advertising using PFOA and PFOS free is stopped immediately – it is illegal!, “ says Christel Søgaard Kirkeby, project manager at the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

Here are the legal bits on PFOA and PFOS

According to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency it is illegal to produce, market or use PFOS and PFOA.

According to the Marketing Practices Act it is illegal to promote legal conditions as something particular for a product. If a product fulfills the law by not containing a specific banned substance, it is illegal to promote this as a special quality of the product.

The consumer ombudsman has previously concluded that is was misleading marketing when a company used PFOA-free for a product that contained other PFAS, since consumers cannot distinguish between the fluorinated substances.

If it says PFOA-free on a product, the consumers can get the impression that the product is free of all PFAS.

PFOA-free frying pans with PFAS in the coating

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has checked the market for PFOA or PFOS free frying pans – online and in physical shops.

Afterwards we asked the companies if their products contained other PFAS or not. According to the companies all nine frying pans contain PTFE, while being marketed as PFOA or PFOS free:

  • Onyx Hybrid non-stick frying pan
  • IKEA 365+ frying pan, stainless steel non-stick
  • Scanpan Classic induction frying pan
  • Scanpan Brund Dura Fry
  • Tefal Jamie Oliver Everyday Stainless Steel
  • Fiskars Functional Form
  • Eva Solo Nordic Kitchen frying pan slip-let
  • Rösle pan set elegance with non-stick coating (PTFE version)
  • HOLMs deli frying pan BUM

Therefore, The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals notified the products to the consumer ombudsman for illegal and misleading marketing.

PTFE in frying pans is not necessarily a problem

You should not worry if your frying pan contains PTFE. The substance is bound in the coating. Only when the frying pan is heated above 250 degrees there is a risk that the substances are released.  Always follow the cooking instruction you received when buying the frying pan.

The main problem is at the production site, where PFAS pollute the environment and in the end finds its way to you through your food.

Do not throw a well-functioning frying pan in the trash. That would be a waste of resources. Nevertheless, do consider buying a PFAS free frying pan when buying a new one. This way you can stop the polluting of our earth.

PFAS are commonly used in frying pans

PFAS, or fluorinated substances, are often used in non-stick coating in frying pans. However, there are many frying pans without PFAS.

The fluorinated substances are unwanted because they accumulate in the environment and in our bodies, and they are suspected of being harmful to our immune system, increasing the cholesterol levels in our blood, increased risks of liver damage, specific types of cancer, endocrine disruption, involuntary abortion and lung damage.

Look for these abbreviations for PFAS

It can be difficult to keep a complete overview of all the abbreviations PFAS, PFOA, PFOS and PTFE.

If you want to avoid ALL the fluorinated substances look for:

  • PFC-free
  • PFAS-free
  • fluorcarbon-free or
  • free for fluorinated substances

This way you should be guaranteed that the products are PFAS-free. Otherwise, you can contact the companies behind the products and ask if the product is PFAS free.

Check the individual product, not just the brand

From our previous test, we know that companies make frying pans with and without PFAS. Therefore, check the individual product, instead of relying on a specific brand.

PFAS-abbreviation confusion

We have contacted the companies behind the products and asked if the products contain PFAS.

The answers show that there is some confusion about the different abbreviations.

Some companies answer that PTFE has nothing to do with PFAS. Others answer that their PTFE-coating does not contain harmful substances.

Finally, some companies acknowledges that their marketing is illegal and that they will change it ASAP.

What the companies say

  • "We use the material PTFE in our original coating, which has nothing to do with PFAS. Therefore, there is no phasing out of the material, as we have never used it.”

  • IKEA informs us that they must confess it’s a mistake with their marketing of PFOA-free frying pans on the Danish market. They are correcting the mistake asap and expect to update all platforms with legal information over the next few days.  

  • Scanpan is behind the frying pans Brund Dura Fry and Scanpan Classic induktion.

    “We can inform that our coating contains PTFE, which is in the PFAS family. Therefore it would be wrong to say that we do NOT use PFAS.

  • “None of our cookware coatings contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Safety for our consumers is our top priority. Fiskars complies with EU Directives 2001/95 / EC (Product Safety) and 1935/2004 (Materials in contact with food) which ensure that all products are completely safe to use and can not cause any harm to its users. Safety is verified through extensive tests, where the products are exposed to combinations of high temperature and various food simulants, e.g. acid and alcohol. It is of the utmost importance for Fiskars that nothing harmful can migrate from the coated cookware, and we are very proud of our work and that all our products are safe to use. All our coatings are tested according to POP regulation (EU) 2019/1021 and (EU) 2020/784.

    PFAS in some relations means all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and covers both polymers and non-polymers, for example PTFE-coatings belong to polymer group. However, our PTFE coated products do not contain any non-polymer fluorinated PFAS compounds considered harmful or accumulating in the environment (e.g. PFOA, PFOS and GenX substances). Our ceramic coated products (eg. All Steel and Norden) do not contain any fluorine compounds, thus are totally PFAS, PFOA and PFOS free.”

  • ”We can confirm that our coating contains PTFE. Which means that our pans and pots are produced without the use of PFOA and PFOS. Groupe SEB has always valued customers' health very highly. To this end, the Group is perfectly compliant with the rules. The materials used to manufacture the product are permitted according to European regulations.

    The product has been tested according to the European regulations for materials and articles intended for contact with food and the results are in accordance.”

  • "It is correct that several years ago we phased out both PFOA and PFOS, cf. the brochure you refer to.

    With regard to other PFAS, we are aware of the current focus and development, and we will of course follow applicable legislation at all times.

    At Eva Solo, we work to ensure our customers welfare, also when it concerns products that come into contact with food. We want our customers to be able to buy Eva Solo products with confidence, in the knowledge that they always meet the requirements set in the EU/DK for products with food contact.

    All our products are tested according to current EU/DK legislation. The testing laboratories we use are all accredited in relation to EU/DK legislation regarding food safety and no products come onto the market without meeting applicable requirements.

    In addition, all our products are subject to the European chemicals regulation REACH. As a starting point, we want to give consumers a choice.

    We therefore market different series - with and without coating. We have just introduced a whole series of stainless steel with a honeycomb pattern that is uncoated. In addition, we have a number of ceramic non-stick series that also do not contain PFAS. We continuously listen to consumers and our sub-suppliers – and we want to do the right thing.

    That is why we are already working to phase out PFAS in all our products.”

  • ”We have to series of pans at Coop. One called BUM which has a PTFE coating and therefore contains PFAS. The other called Svendborg has a ceramic coating and does not contain PFAS.”

  • We have contacted our supplier Rösle and asked them to remove this claim on future packaging. Additionally, we are getting a new sticker with a corrected text, which we will attach to all products in our own warehouses and our customers' warehouses. Furthermore, all shop signs will be changes so that it no longer appears that the product is PFOA-free.

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