How packaging can guarantee safe and wholesome food in India - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

When you are part of the process to provide safe and wholesome food, what is your mandate?

Dr Malik Jamaluddin, director for technology and quality assurance at Hubergroup, thinks food safe packaging a matter of supreme importance. “Transfer of specific chemical substances from the packaging material either from the printing ink or from the adhesive layer might lead to negative impacts on the food with respect to food safety and food quality.”

In this Sunday Column, Dr Jam

05 May 2018 | By Noel D'Cunha

Simply put, safe inks are – ‘inks that fulfil the applicable regulatory requirements’. So it is important to know which regulation we are talking and what are the requirements under that regulation. Some of the leading regulations are Eupia, Swiss Ordinance, Nestle Guidelines, US FDA etc.

Dr Malik Jamaluddin, Hubergroup

Food packaging awareness
Food packaging safety is important because any transfer of specific chemical substances from the packaging material either from the printing ink or from the adhesive layer might lead to negative impacts on the food in respect to food safety and food quality. “Specific substances could be harmful to health if small amounts are ingested with the food on a regular basis and also deteriorate the organoleptic properties or change the composition of the food,” says Dr Jamaluddin. 

He adds, “If safe inks are used, particularly for food packaging, then the brand owners can be sure that at least known health risks from packaging material used in their products are eliminated.” Apart from food, other critical areas of application are pharma, toys, children’s stationery, etc.

Taking the cue
There is a talk of a ban on toluene-based inks in India, as part of the regulation on packaging safety. But this will impact the ink manufacturers. “This is a welcome development. As a market leader and a responsible company, we at Hubergroup, have always been proactive on such initiatives. We are ready to support any change towards non-toluene inks at a short notice.”

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been the authority empowered to consolidate statute relating to food and regulations in India. There’s a need to take the regulations to the next level in future. “I feel in India we should simply adopt some of the leading regulatory frameworks like Eupia or Swiss Ordinance. They are easy to implement in India and will help Indian companies align themselves with other global players,” advocates Dr Jamaluddin.

On its part, Dr Jamaluddin says, the Hubergroup is the only company in India that launched pan-India events to promote safe inks over the last three years. “We first launched our Gecko range of inks for flexo/gravure printing three years ago. And then we launched our MGA range of low migration inks for sheetfed, conventional and UV. We conducted regional events for our customers and we continue to engage with customers directly.”

Hubergroup has also implemented strong GMP (good manufacturing practices) systems in our plants and has strengthened its product safety department and analytical laboratories. “These two are the backbone of our safe solution programmes,” exerts Dr Jamaluddin.

Trends and success mantra
Currently, a majority of packaging in India use conventional inks without any concern for related safety risks. That said, the market has begun moving towards compliant inks/low migration inks. Some of the leading converters are using low migration inks. Others will follow soon. But much shall depend on brand owner requirements or the regulatory authorities. “The market will make a switch to low migration inks rather fast. Awareness and interest in this topic are already high. And all stakeholders are gearing themselves up for a possible complete shift,” says Dr Jamaluddin.

So, what’s the success mantra for implementing food packaging safety? First and foremost, knowledge and awareness, says Dr Jamaluddin. He explains, “Knowledge of what is required to be done to produce safe inks; knowledge of global trends in food safety; and a deep knowledge of regulatory requirements.”

What remains is: the management commitment to implement the required internal processes and systems.

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