Updated: Feb 21
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As a business owner dealing with food items, it is important to exercise extreme caution when sourcing packaging materials for your products. That includes the safest type of ink to print on your packages. You wouldn't want your customers to get food poisoning from eating your edible products; you'll lose your integrity and numerous customers if they discover that you sell contaminated food.
It's easy to think that ink type doesn't matter as they're not directly in contact with your food items. However, the truth is that they are crucial to your packaging process. In fact, Swiss food multinational Nestlé had to recall their baby milk products in 2005 because of the type of ink they used. They discovered that their baby milk products got ink contamination from the packaging.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 1 in 10 people (about 600 million) in the world fall ill after eating contaminated food. It also reports that 420 000 people die every year, resulting in the loss of 33 million healthy life years for the same reason. In addition, diarrhoeal diseases are the most common illnesses resulting from the consumption of contaminated food. It is responsible for 550 million people falling ill and 230 000 annual fatalities.
The effects of contaminated food are typically worse when the edible items you distribute are to be eaten raw. However, there have been increased cases of norovirus in Slovenia due to suspected contaminated packaging.
To avoid such situations, ensure that you use only food-grade ink for your packages. What's food-grade ink? How does one ensure that they purchase the proper ink? We'll provide answers to those questions and more in this piece.
What Are Food Grade Inks?
Food grade inks (or food-safe inks) are dyes and inks that are safe for printing on food packages. This means that even if the inks penetrate your food, they don't contaminate them. In other words, food-grade inks are edible inks that inkjet printers use for printing on food packages. They're different from food coloring and shouldn't be used interchangeably.
Food-safe inks have proper surface tension for imprinting, fast drying time, smear resistance, and suitable viscosity. They contain safe chemicals for human consumption and meet specific regulatory guidelines. The purpose of food-grade ink is to ensure that food is free from toxins, harmful metals, and dangerous chemicals.
Glycerin is one of the primary ingredients in food-grade ink and acts as a co-solvent. Edible inks also contain water, traces of food-grade dye, and food glycerol. These inks must also undergo a hygiene manufacturing process to avoid contamination with non-food-grade substances. That's why it's not just important to purchase food-grade inks, but you must also be sure of the source.
Note that there are different types of food-grade inks for various inkjets. So, it's essential to get the correct type for your food packaging. Also, remember that inks can only be certified as food-grade upon testing. Merely including some edible chemicals in ink production doesn't make it food grade.
How Does Packaging Ink Affect Your Edible Products?
Packaging ink can infiltrate your food items through ink migration. Ink migration refers to situations where ink substances transfer from the packaging material into the food. Apart from contaminating food, ink migration can change its flavor and odor. It will also endanger your customer's health and destroy your brand reputation.
These are the ways your packaging ink can get into your edible and contaminate them through ink migration:
● Invisible Set-Off
Invisible set-off happens when packaging ink components transfer from the package's printed side to another package's reverse side. This typically happens with roll-printed packaging materials that transfer ink to the other side during re-wounding. Set-off migration may also occur when you stack printed packages. This type of migration can pose huge health risks for consumers if the inks are unsafe for consumption.
● Diffusion Migration
As the name suggests, with this method, your products become contaminated through diffusion. Diffusion means that the ink components move from a place of higher concentration to a region of lower concentration. Here, the ink passes through the printed side of the substrate to penetrate the food.
That is the ink components transfer from the printed side to the side that contacts the food. Specific environmental factors may aid this process.
● Gas-Phase Ink Migration
Gas-phase transfer happens when volatile chemicals in the packaging ink components interact with the air through evaporation and boiling. This typically happens when heating food products.
Factors To Consider When Choosing The Best Food Grade Inks
Choosing the right food grade inks for your food packaging requires in-depth food safety knowledge. You can ensure that you're using suitable food-safe inks for your packaging by sourcing materials from a reputable packaging company.
However, you may also pick the best food-grade ink by considering the following factors:
● Substrate type
● Dry time and adhesion
● Water resistance
● Lasting ink impression
● Volume of packages
● Use on porous and non-porous surfaces, etc.
What Inkjet Inks Are Great For Food Packaging?
There's no one best inkjet ink for food packaging. What's suitable for your edibles depends on specific needs and situations. That's why it's best to source your materials from a packaging company that prioritizes food safety. They will give you the best advice on the perfect packaging inks for your edible items.
These are the most common food grade packaging inks for various types of edible products:
● Eco-Friendly Water-Based Inkjet Ink
This is one of the best inks for food packaging as it prioritizes food safety and eco-friendliness. It's high-quality, adaptable, and versatile.
● UV Inkjet Inks
Generally, it's not advisable to use UV inkjet inks for food packaging to avoid contamination from pigments and oligomers. However, it becomes safe when used along with a functional barrier. A functional barrier is a substrate that prevents ink migration by barring ink-product contact.
● Electron Beam Inkjet Inks
This ink type doesn't require photoinitiators and uses its electron beam to complete the polymerization process. That makes them more cost-effective than some other types of inkjet inks. They also don't need solvents for cleaning and have low migration possibilities.
● Low-Migration UV/LED Inkjet Inks
This type of inkjet ink requires photoinitiators. They also require complete curing to be suitable for food packaging. Business owners should ensure that this ink goes through proper testing.
If you've never paid attention to the food packaging ink you use, now is the time to start. To promote food safety, you must ensure that you use only food-grade ink for your yummy treats.