Are All Digital Printing Inks Food-Safe for Corrugated Packaging?

If you are a brand owner, converter, or observer in the packaging supply chain, you probably know the buzz around digital printing. To say the least, the digitally printed packaging market is attractive and growing. Corrugated packaging is among the fastest growing digital segments, with market value growing to $4.6B by 2022 (a 29% CAGR*).

You also likely know that there are several new high-speed single-pass inkjet presses entering the market to address the various performance vectors of digital corrugated. Some presses promise higher productivity, some promise higher quality. The market, with all its niches, is probably big enough to support them all.

What about food packaging, as more than half the market is food and beverage related? From a food safety perspective, brand owners must look more carefully at emerging digital print technologies – especially at inkjet inks and media coatings and especially for primary corrugated food packaging. Due to the potential of ink migrating through the porous corrugated media and contaminating the food product, inkjet inks are receiving more scrutiny by food brands and regulatory stakeholders. As industry analyst Smithers Pira states, these materials “must not transfer any components into food in quantities that could endanger human health, change food composition in an unacceptable way or deteriorate its taste and odour.”

HP’s PageWide Press portfolio (T1100S, T400S, and C500) uniquely addresses the digital print opportunity for both primary and secondary corrugated food packaging. Inks for these inkjet presses are odorless and solvent-free. No HAPs (Hazardous Air Pollutants) are added and they are low in VOC emissions. Very importantly, HP PageWide uses true water-based inks that are 100% free of UV-reactive chemistries. Thus, these inks enable robust and trusted food-safe printing for both primary and secondary corrugated packaging, requiring no additional barriers.**

Robust and trusted. HP takes food packaging safety extremely seriously, with a technical team of 40 members committed to compliance with leading food safety standards such as Nestlé Guidance, Swiss Ordinance, EUPIA Guidance, and US FDA (21CFR parts 170-199). To meet these high standards, HP follows rigorous internal processes in the design of its inks and in the assessment of ink component purity. The company also provides external documentation validating PageWide ink’s compliance with relevant regulations and standards.

Digital print for packaging is evolving rapidly as new inkjet technologies emerge and new vendors enter the market. With this increased activity comes some confusion and ambiguity in messaging. As there are no global laws to control ink vendors’ marketing messages around food safety in package printing, food brands should be vigilant in their research of soft ‘food safe’ claims.

If an ink manufacturer suggests that its ink is water-based and therefore safe for primary food packaging, the brand owner and packaging converter may want to ask for third-party validation of compliance. While using water as the main component provides a good foundation for potential food packaging compliance, one cannot assume that water-based inks are automatically compliant with leading standards. It is wise to pay particular attention to limitations associated with vendors’ claims or testing configurations. For example, even potentially food-safe UV chemistries often require an additional barrier such as plastic. It is worth the effort to ask for validation that supports food-safe marketing claims. Food safety is critical and transparency is key to trust.

For more information on corrugated packaging for food brands, register for the ‘The Value Of Digital Print In Corrugated Packaging’  webinar on the 13th March  at 3PM London/11AM New York.

Learn the key differences between the various digital printing technologies and how the HP true water-based inks technology enables robust and trusted food-safe printing by watching the on-demand webinar here Food-Safe Digital Printing in Corrugated Packaging.

Register Here for ‘The Value of Digital Print in Corrugated Packaging! ‘ webinar

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