All about formulating a standard for ink
Sagar Singh, deputy director, Chemical Division, BIS, explains what it takes to formulate an Indian standard in an interview with Rahul Kumar
30 Sep 2022 | By Rahul Kumar
The standard IS 15495, which prescribes guidelines for printing inks for use on food packages, which is now mandated by FSSAI, is a standard created by the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS). While printing inks constitutes a small part of the package, its impact is immensely significant and the next big issue in sustainable packaging is printing inks. Thus, recently the standard IS 15495 was revised by incorporating chemicals like toluene and certain phthalates.
At the forefront of these developments is Sagar Singh, deputy director, Chemical Division, BIS. A BTech in Chemical Engineering from IIT-Delhi, Singh, who joined BIS in 2014, is the member-secretary of CHD 14, the sectional committee for printing ink, stationery, and allied products.
Singh says BIS has three core activities — Standardisation (which is in Singh’s purview) certification, and laboratory services.
In standardisation, BIS has 16 departments overseeing different segments, such as chemical, electrical and others, where the organisation formulates Indian standards for various products.
“We also revise the existing standards,” Singh says. “Because standards are not static. They are dynamic in nature. We need to update them regularly in line with the industry requirements. If we do not consider the industry requirement, the standards become obsolete. We have to keep our pace as per the requirements of the industry. Likewise, we need input from industry, manufacturers, consumers, the technical committees or sectional committees.”
These technical or sectional committees comprise of various experts from the industry. Those experts may include manufacturers, users of the product, education institutes, the government departments, including various ministries, and various laboratories. “So, the committee is a fine mix of all the relevant stakeholders,” Singh says.
There are 25 sectional committees in BIS. CHD 14 is the committee that focuses on printing ink, stationery, and allied products. Singh says CHD 14 has a good mix of ink manufacturers, converters, and suppliers.
“Whenever we schedule a meeting in consultation with the chairman of the technical committee, we send out the meeting notice to all the committee members,” he adds.
Singh says there are also sub-committees and panels within the sectional committee. CHD 14 has two panels — one related to printing ink and the other related to stationery items. The printing ink panel has 10 members, including all the major ink manufacturers.
“Whenever you take up any particular subject, for example, if someone proposes a new standard, we take it up through the panel. The panel comprises the core experts in the field,” he says.
The panel prepares a working document, which is then taken up to the sectional committee. Once the sectional committee approves it, the document is sent for wider circulation.
“By wide circulation, we mean that the document is in public domain available for all relevant stakeholders. It is published on the BIS website. If you are a relevant stakeholder, you can access the document and submit your comments online,” Singh explains.
The document remains in wide circulation for two months. Singh says the public comments can be of two types — editorial, highlighting the language errors in the document, and technical, regarding the standard in questions and what can be done about it.
After two months, all the comments are collated, and they are discussed in a sectional committee meeting whether they are worthy of inclusion or not. “We incorporate the comments that make sense. After incorporating the comments, the document is sent for publication. After the publication, it is considered the Indian standard,” Singh says.
He adds that it takes 12-18 months for a standard to get published. If it is a priority, it may take nine months. “If the subject is critical in nature, we receive a lot of comments and resolving these takes time,” he adds.
In this sense, Singh says, BIS acts as a facilitator in building consensus among the stakeholders.
Currently, CHD 14 is working on the process of formulating a new standard on eco-friendly printing inks.
It is also working on revising the standards again, because, as Singh says, the ban on toluene was just the beginning. Now, BIS is trying to incorporate other harmful chemicals in the list. These include non-intentionally added substances and UV photoinitiators.
BIS wants to add Mineral oils, Cobalt Carboxylates, Xylene, Methylcyclohexane in the next amendment. Xylene and Methylcyclohexane will be specific for flexible materials and film printing for Food Packaging. Xylene is a neurotoxin and may cause spontaneous abortion. Methyl cyclohexane is toxic to aquatic life and toxic for the liver and kidney.
Non-intentionally added substances (NIAS) are chemicals that are present in a food contact material (FCM) but have not been added intentionally for a technical reason during the formulation. Many NIAS can migrate from the FCM into food, but it is very difficult to completely understand and control. NIAS have various sources and can be grouped into side products, breakdown products, and contaminants.
Singh says while BIS is working on building the list of harmful chemicals, the agenda for the future is to switch from a negative to a positive list. “Now, in Annex A, we have a list of prohibited chemicals. Soon, we will have a list of chemicals which are safe to use in ink formulation,” Singh concludes. “This is our vision, and hopefully we will achieve that soon.”