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Jurisdictions Surveyed: Angola | Argentina | Botswana | Bulgaria | Cambodia | China | Democratic Republic of the Congo | Côte d’Ivoire | Egypt | Gabon | Georgia | Ghana | Greenland | Guyana | India | Indonesia | Kazakhstan | Liberia | Nepal | Pakistan | Russia | Thailand | Turkey | Vietnam
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Greenland

There are no legal wet markets that sell live wild animals and slaughter them on site across Greenland. However, freshly killed fish, whale, seal, reindeer, muskoxen, and polar bear may be butchered and sold at local food markets known as brætter. Regulation of the sale of food products, including fresh fish and meat, falls within the scope of Greenland’s self-determination. All meat sold in Greenland must meet certain hygiene requirements, and may not be sold if it is likely to cause sickness or food poisoning. In addition, Greenland has special rules for the treatment of certain meats, including from reindeer and polar bears.

Local fresh food markets are subject to local municipal control, whereas other sales of food, such as in a supermarket, are subject to supervisory control by Greenland’s Veterinary and Food Authority. The establishment of local food markets requires prior approval from the municipality. In 2018, a local market closed and re-opened in a redesigned way in order to ensure the hygienic sale of food products. The changes were not popular with local fishermen, who wanted to maintain closer and more familiar contact with their customers.

In 2016, an outbreak of trichinella infections in humans was traced to meat from a polar bear sold at a local food market, and in 2019 wild reindeer were found infected with trichinella, but there appears to have been no more recent reports of human infections related to local food markets in Greenland than that from 2016.

I. Introduction

The largest fresh food market in Greenland, Kalaaliaraq, can be found in the Greenlandic capitol Nuuk.[1] Nuuk has a population of about 58,000.[2] Similar markets (commonly known as brætter in Danish) are found in each local municipality. At these markets, food from wild fish and animals, such as seal, whale, reindeer, and polar bear, may be sold.[3] No live animals are sold but most of the meat is freshly caught and recently killed.

Until 2018 only fresh meat could be sold at the Nuuk and similar local markets, but in 2018 the government of Greenland issued an exception to Greenlandic Food Ordinance rules, whereby dried and salted meat could also be sold at that market.[4] In 2017, about 8,000 metric tonnes of seal, 3,500 metric tonnes of whale, and 330,000 metric tonnes of terrestrial animals (including reindeer and muskoxen) were caught in Greenland.[5] There appear to be no official figures on how much of that meat was sold at local markets.

II. Legal Framework

A. Laws Regulating the Sale of Wild Meat and Fish

Greenland is an autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark and enjoys self-rule.[6] Thus, the Greenlandic people, represented in the Greenlandic parliament (Inatsisartut)[7] and with a Greenlandic executive body (Naalakkersuisut),[8] may regulate certain issues that concern Greenland locally, whereas other matters, such as foreign affairs, are regulated together with the Danish Parliament.[9] Regulation of food products was placed under Greenlandic control as of January 1, 1992.[10]

The sale of fish and meat is regulated in several Greenlandic laws and regulations, ranging from how products may be marketed and labelled to how soon game meat must be sold following the hunt.[11] In accordance with Greenlandic law, all food products sold must be of a sound and good nature and have a reasonable shelf-life at the moment of sale, and may not be sold if it can be assumed that it may cause sickness or food poisoning, or otherwise may be considered unfit for human consumption.[12] Freshly caught fish may be sold both at local markets and to supermarkets. In addition, meat from wild animals, such as reindeer and polar bear, may be sold by the hunter directly to the consumer.[13] All sales of self-caught reindeer meat by hunters must be done within three days of the killing of the animal, and any such sale may only be done during the hunting period.[14] The sale of polar bear meat at local markets may only be carried out after the kill has been officially registered with the municipality.[15] In addition, biological tests of the polar bear must be conducted and biological specimens delivered to the municipality prior to the sale.[16] The hunt of polar bears and wild reindeer require separate licenses, but no additional licenses are required to sell the animal.[17]

In accordance with the Act of 1998 on Food Companies, most rules that apply to the sale of fish and meat at supermarkets also apply to sales directly from fishermen and hunters to the individual consumer.[18] However, fishermen and hunters need not comply with the Act on Food Companies with respect to the rules on prior approval, a building or venue's construction and surroundings, water supply, drainage conditions and renovation, interior design,  lighting and ventilation, inventory, tools and machinery, etc.[19] However, they must still conduct the sale of their products in a hygienically justifiable manner.[20]

B. Local Markets

The establishment of markets (brætter) and places of slaughter (flænseplader) requires prior approval from the municipality.[21] Local markets must be established, cleaned, and maintained in such a way as to avoid contamination of foodstuffs, and the local municipalities must ensure that

  • surfaces that come into contact with food are in good condition and made of smooth, washable, and non-toxic materials;
  • there is an adequate supply of water that meets the requirements for drinking water;
  • there are adequate facilities for washing hands;
  • there are adequate facilities for the hygienic storage and disposal of waste;
  • foodstuffs are placed in such a way as to avoid contamination (food must be placed at least 80 cm above the ground); and
  • manufacture of foodstuffs at the market is not permitted except for plucking, gutting of fish, and carving that is done in immediate connection with the sale.[22]

The municipality must also facilitate the tracking and tracing of meat sold in local markets.[23]

The requirement to obtain prior approval before establishing a local market where food products can be sold fresh directly by fishermen and hunters is meant to ensure that all food products that are produced, stored, transported, or placed on the domestic market are of high quality.[24] A legislative report observes that while it is important that Greenland be able to access local food resources and buy Greenlandic food products, it is more important that all food sold is safe.[25] The same report notes that food products that are treated (such as salted or dried meat) are more likely to include bacteria that are harmful to humans; therefore, it is important that any such product adhere to stringent hygiene and food product rules.[26] Because of the distinction between fresh produce and treated produce (such as dried or salted meat), Greenlandic authorities have long opted to keep these different forms of produce separate.[27] Local fishermen, on the other hand, have been critical of the fact that local markets cannot sell dried or salted products.[28]

In 2018, the local market at the harbor outside Nuuk was demolished by the local municipality and rebuilt.[29] The local fishermen that sold their products at the market criticized the new market’s layout and rules, as they restricted the products they could sell and kept them farther from their customers.[30] The sellers wanted to continue operating with close and familiar contact with the customer.[31]

III. Enforcement

Generally, the quality and standard of meat and fish sold in Greenland is enforced by the Veterinary and Food Authority (Veterinær- og Fødevaremyndigheden, VFMG).[32] However, all meat sold at brætter or similar local fresh food markets is the responsibility of the municipality (kommune).[33] All sales at local markets that are under the authority of the municipality must still adhere to the Food Ordinance that is currently in force.[34]

IV. Illness Tied to Fresh Meat Sold at Local Food Markets

Trichinella infections are a common problem in wild animals in Greenland. In 2016, a group of Greenlanders fell ill after eating polar bear meat purchased at a local food market.[35] Prior to sale the polar bear had been inspected for disease without remark; however, following the incident the polar meat was re-examined and found to be infected with trichinella worms.[36] As of 2017, the inspection of seal and polar bear meat for trichinella is not mandatory; instead, the government of Greenland recommends that consumers of polar bear and seal meat cook the meat thoroughly to avoid infection.[37] In 2019, trichinella was found in wild reindeer meat.[38] However, it appears it did not spread to humans.[39]

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Prepared by Elin Hofverberg
Foreign Law Specialist
August 2020


[1] Kalaalimineerniarfik – The Fish Market, Greenland: Be a Pioneer (July 3, 2012), https://perma.cc/7UWB-NV5Z.

[2] Greenland, CIA World Fact Book (July 17, 2020), https://perma.cc/K2ZW-KWJ5.

[3] Brættet, KommuneQarfik, https://perma.cc/6BMM-YHCE. For additional information on the sale of polar bear meat at brættet see Fangeren: Isbjørnen var så flot og stolt, at jeg glemte at skyde, KNR (Apr. 11, 2009), https://perma.cc/9AK8-TQRZ.

[4] Tørret fisk og kød kan nu købes på brædter, Government of Iceland (Sept. 3, 2018), https://perma.cc/9RPX-9H67.

[5] Grønlands statistik, Grønland i Tal 2019 (May 2019), https://perma.cc/H6YP-8S96.

[6] Act on Greenland Self-Government, Act No. 473 of 12 June 2009, https://perma.cc/GY7F-DZGJ. For more information on the history of Greenland’s self-governance see Elin Hofverberg, Greenland’s National Day, the Home Rule Act (1979), and the Act on Self-Government (2009), In Custodia Legis (June 21, 2019), https://perma.cc/W7P6-3N6D.

[7] Act on Greenland Self-Government § 1.

[8] Id.

[9] Id. § 11.

[10] Id. § 12; see also Bemærkninger til Lovforslaget (June 2, 2015), https://perma.cc/UHQ5-8GTH.

[11] Specifically, all food-related matters are regulated in the following laws and regulations: Inatsisartutlov nr. 24 af 28. november 2019 om fødevarer, https://perma.cc/4ZER-Z24B; Inatsisartutlov nr. 39 af 9. december 2015 om markedsføring og mærkning (markedsføringsloven), https://perma.cc/5HL9-ZFD5; Selvstyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 20 af 15. november 2019 om mærkning af fødevarer (mærkningsbekendtgørelsen) https://perma.cc/ZJ4A-FWP5; Hjemmestyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 7 af 17. marts 2008 om vandkvalitet og tilsyn medvandforsyningsanlæg, https://perma.cc/K3QS-PE8D; Hjemmestyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 21 af 27. juli 1998 om levnedsmiddelvirksomheder, https://perma.cc/LV64-AL38; Anordning nr. 523 af 8. juni 2004 om ikrafttræden for Grønland af lov om fødevarer m.m., https://perma.cc/7UDA-SYRR; Anordning nr. 524 af 8. juni 2004 om ikrafttræden for Grønland af lov om sygdomme og infektioner hos dyr, https://perma.cc/G3TM-CWKR; Anordning nr. 525 af 8. juni 2004 om ikrafttræden for Grønland af lov om dyrlægegerning m.v , https://perma.cc/B9PD-W2GX.

[12] § 6 Inatsisartutlov nr. 24 af 28. november 2019 om fødevarer; § 7 Anordning nr. 523 af 8. juni 2004 om ikrafttræden for Grønland af lov om fødevarer m.m.

[13] § 1 stk. 7 Hjemmestyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 21 af 27. juli 1998 om levnedsmiddelvirksomheder.

[14] § 7 stk 3 Selvstyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 7 af 27. juni 2013 om beskyttelse og fangst af vilde rensdyr, https://perma.cc/Q7ML-Y9MM.  

[15] § 15 Selvstyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 3 af 14. september 2018 om fangst og beskyttelse af isbjørne, https://perma.cc/DP9R-VQGB.

[16] Id. § 17.

[17] Id. § 8; § 6 Selvstyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 7 af 27. juni 2013 om beskyttelse og fangst af vilde rensdyr.

[18] § 1 Hjemmestyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 21 af 27. juli 1998 om levnedsmiddelvirksomheder.

[19] Id. § 1 stk 7.

[20] § 7 Inatsisartutlov nr. 24 af 28. november 2019 om fødevarer.

[21] § 24 Inatsisartutlov nr. 24 af 28. november 2019 om fødevarer; § 3 Hjemmestyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 21 af 27. juli 1998 om levnedsmiddelvirksomheder.

[22] § 26 Hjemmestyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 21 af 27. juli 1998 om levnedsmiddelvirksomheder.

[23] § 21 Inatsisartutlov nr. 24 af 28. november 2019 om fødevarer.

[24] Bemærkninger til Lovforslaget, supra note 10, at 10 & 23.

[25] Id. at 11.

[26] Id. at 10.

[27] Id.

[28] Ønsker et mere ’grønlandsk’ bræt, Sermitsiaq AG(Mar. 19, 2013), https://perma.cc/S9QV-B6K5.

[29] Vi river det Gamle Bræt (Kalaaliaratoqaq) ned – og bygger et nyt, NRK (Nov. 8, 2018), https://perma.cc/F4XC-F6ZN.

[30] Nuuk-fangere foretrækker brættet i Kolonihavnen, KNR (Nov. 14, 2018), https://perma.cc/R5BA-68DY.

[31] Id.

[32] Veterinær- og Fødevaremyndigheden i Grønland, Government of Greenland (Apr. 28, 2020), https://perma.cc/A4K8-7A6Q.

[33] § 7 stk. 2 Selvstyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 7 af 27. juni 2013 om beskyttelse og fangst af vilde rensdyr; Brættet, KommuneQarfik, supra note 3.

[34] § 7 stk. 3 Selvstyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 7 af 27. juni 2013 om beskyttelse og fangst af vilde rensdyr. 

[35] Sådan Undgår Du at Blive Smittet med Trikiner!, Government of Iceland (Apr. 12, 2017), https://perma.cc/8GZB-KXSE.

[36] Id.  

[37] Selvstyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 10 af 25. juli 2017 om ophævelse af bekendtgørelse om tvungen trikinkontrol i Grønland, https://perma.cc/GXC2-DW8B; Government of Greenland, Trikinose - Information og Vejledning til at Undgå Smitte, https://perma.cc/27TK-ZFLF.

[38] Information om parasitter i kød fra veldt, Government of Greenland (Sept. 5, 2019), https://perma.cc/65EL-6TRA.

[39] Id.

Last Updated: 12/31/2020