The Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) is continuously raising the bar on packaging safety and thereby pushing the supply chain to be safer than ever. Moreover, post the pandemic, consumers will have an increased focus on hygiene and food safety. Thus, the packaging supply chain has to gear up and align itself to the new customer expectations.
We have already seen many converters in India proactively choosing safe conventional ink systems realising that the world is looking at India as a progressive economy. This means, India, in all facets, needs to harmonise itself with the best regulations available globally.
Safe or food-grade inks is a terminology that has been in use but adopted loosely by the market to suit their needs. Currently, mineral oil-based inks are predominantly used in the Indian market, even though oil-free and migration optimised inks are available.
However, the mineral oil-free inks are just marketing terminology. And the migration optimised inks are the real safe inks since the raw materials in such formulations are screened as per pre-defined compliance requirements. Migration optimised inks go beyond just the substitution of single ingredients such as mineral oils and hence, are free of a range of other migrating chemical contaminants based on the specific ink formulation’s safety evaluation.
Here are the several drivers promoting safe conventional inks in the Indian market:
The brand’s reputation:
Brand owners are vigilant in ensuring product safety and protecting the brand image. Hence, they analyse all topics that may impact the safety of their products with due diligence.
The brand owners keep upgrading themselves to reassure product safety and maintain consumer trust. They clearly understand that a single product safety recall would not only produce heavy costs of non-compliance but would also damage their brand reputation and affect future sales.
The converter optimism:
Companies across the globe are setting sights on the growth prospects of the Indian market. This will eventually lead to more investments in the country and therefore will require packaging materials as per their global specifications.
Moreover, the exports for the packaging material itself will witness positive growth. Converters are keen to grab these opportunities and hence, will move towards safe ink systems harmonising with the best available global specifications.
Stringent food safety regulations:
The Indian authorities’ are making constant efforts to upgrade their standards and benchmark them based on stringent global standards. Such an approach is imperative not only to ensure consumer wellbeing but also to open up global markets. However, on the flip side, in some cases, the authorities are becoming more vigilant than ever. This, in turn, puts pressure on the supply chain partners to align and deliver safe products. Thus, a smooth and efficient system has to be devised.
Developments in sustainability counteracting compliance:
The brand owners and package developers have ramped up the designing and innovation of new packaging structures with high sustainability standards. One of their key requirements now is that the printing ink must be formulated to ensure that migration risk is minimised not compromising the ink performance. This requirement reemphasises the need for safe packaging inks to safeguard that there is no migration concern from the final packaging material.
The cost-effective supply chain’s impact on product safety:
The Indian market has always been a competitive cost market. It induces a probability, in which, the effectiveness of barrier properties is overlooked for cost. Therefore, the market should focus and acknowledge the less realised fact that the cost of non-compliance is much higher than the cost of compliance.
Validation of the final print is an untold story:
Many regulations across the globe emphasise the final validation of the printed article. Such validations require well-processed information to be shared between the supply chain partners along with good analytical checks (many converters tend to avoid it). Here, the safe inks support the manufacturer to minimise migration risks and produce a safe and compliant final printed article.
Foreseeable direct contact is an unspoken concern:
There are packaging applications, in which, either the product or the consumers come into direct contact with the packaging inks. More often than not, these contacts are foreseeable. Thus, in such scenarios, the inks must be explicitly designed and approved for each application.
Good manufacturing practices need control:
Many packaging converters deploy different ink systems as per the product application and brand owner compliance requirements. However, it is always advisable to completely switch over to safe ink systems for food and food-based applications, considering the aspect of consumer safety. It helps converters to have better control over good manufacturing practices and build a reputation in the market for delivering safe packaging materials for customers.
The ethical and moral responsibility:
It is the ethical and moral responsibility of all stakeholders in the packaging chain to deliver safe packaging material when the intended application is for (especially) food, pharmaceutical products and other consumer products, which may directly or indirectly have an impact on the health of the consumer.
Packaging material itself is a source
The packaging materials can themselves be a hazardous source, such as lead. The other instances include glass, phthalates with metal, BPA with plastics, o-phenyl phenol with aluminium cans, and mineral oils with recycled board among others. The use of safe ink systems do not negatively impact safe compliant packaging materials and also don’t contribute any existing hazardous components.
Summing up, safe ink systems are not a replacement for the good practices that the stakeholders in the packaging supply chain must adhere to. They support the printer and brand owners to minimise migration risks and to produce a safe product for the consumers.
The key is to understand that migration optimised inks are safe inks with the best standards acknowledging the value of human safety, health and life.
Jatin Takkar is the manager – product safety and regulatory at Siegwerk India. He is a food technologist and has worked with various MNC’s like Nestle and Kraft Heinz before settling in at Siegwerk India. At Siegwerk, Takkar is responsible for the product safety and regulatory segment and ensures the formulation of compliant inks which are demonstrated by systems and supported by documentation.