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Safer inks for food packaging

Food packaging has to fulfil a range of functions: it is designed to catch the eye with its beautiful presentation of the product, to encourage consumers to make a purchase, and – above all – to protect its contents. Food contact materials (FCMs) come into direct or indirect contact with foodstuffs during manufacturing, packaging or use. To ensure food safety and ultimately human health, FCMs must meet extremely strict statutory requirements. These include minimising migration (transfer) of substances in the material to the packaged foodstuff. FCMs must not transfer any components in quantities that could be hazardous to human health, change the composition of the contents, or impact their organoleptic properties.

We drink out of plastic bottles, eat with plastic cutlery, and buy food in plastic packaging. This is not just an ecological issue – to what extent are we consuming potentially harmful substances? Printing food packaging plays a key role in this context. Marabu now offers consumers peace of mind, with the market’s first proven low-migration UV screen printing ink for PE/PP plastics called Ultra Pack UVFP.

Ultra Pack UVFP: market’s 1st certified low-migration UV screen printing ink for PE/PP

  • maximum process stability and food safety for containers made of pretreated polyethylene (HDPE/LDPE) and pretreated polypropylene (PP)
  • the very high reactiveness of UVFP inks ensures rapid drying and printing speeds of up to 3,600 containers an hour
  • final cured state after 24 hours
  • the better the ink film is cured, the lower the potential volume of migratory substances, such as solvents and monomers
  • high-gloss colours, excellent opacity
  • outstanding resistance to water, packaging contents, wear, solvents, alcohol and perspiration
  • the single-component ink is a print-ready product, ensuring rapid, efficient production processes. There is no need for auxiliary agents
  • the proven low-migration properties of UVFP inks can be negatively impacted by the improper use of auxiliaries

Ultra Pack UVFP has been engineered for exterior surface printing onto food, cosmetics, and beverage packaging made of

  • pre-treated polyethylene (HDPE/MDPE/LDPE)
  • pre-treated polypropylene (PP)

Since the result depends not only on the ink, but also on the substrate and the process conditions, conformity can only be assessed with the finished product.

About: Low-Migration

What is low-migration?

Inks printed on packaging come into indirect contact with food, and it is therefore possible for substances contained in the ink to migrate to the contents (e.g. via diffusion, set-off or gas phase migration, see chart 1-3). Migration is greatly influenced by the functional barrier of the substrate. The better this barrier, the lower any potential migration.

Polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) are two of the most popular plastics used in food and personal-care product packaging, and are employed for films, tubes, bottles and carton linings. In contrast to glass and metal, these plastics pose no functional barrier to ink migration. For this reason, inks for food and personal-care packaging are subject to strict quality audits to verify that they are not susceptible to migration, and will not endanger consumer health when used for corresponding products.

Ink as part of a low-migration process

There is no single ink on the market that is universally suitable for all food packaging. Compliance must always be assessed using the finished, printed food contact material as migration is influenced by the substrate itself, the ink and process conditions (see chart 4).

Market participants have long talked about low-migration inks, but the term is sometimes misleading since:

  1. First, it is possible to employ ingredients with high molecular weights, such as highly functional monomers, to significantly reduce the number and volume of migratory substances in inks compared to conventional products – but that does not qualify them for a universally applicable low-migration seal of approval. It is necessary to take into account the interaction between substrate, ink and process conditions.
  2. Second, not every ink with a low-migration label has been proven to be so.