A 21.7-ounce box of Apple Jacks costs around $3.44 at Walmart. But if your kids’ breakfast cereal smells or tastes odd in the morning, who cares what you paid for it? Imagine taking 28 million boxes of Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, Froot Loops, and Honey Smacks off of shelves nationwide as Kellogg did...
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Low migration has become a major issue for ink manufacturers such as Flint Group, INX, Siegwerk, Sun Chemical, and their customers. Some food packaging print/converters find themselves dealing with issues that didn’t directly impact them before. Veteran providers are employing new products and technologies to comply with stringent global governmental regulations and standards as well as additional demands from food marketers. INX’s Jon Graunke, VP of UV/EB technology, and Kevin Facklam, director of regulatory affairs, have served on panels in recent months at PackExpo and the UV Print Conference.
Low-migration inks really are nothing new at Sun Chemical, Bean added, which has been formulating low-odor and low off-taste inks since the early 1980s. “They just didn’t call it ‘low migration’ back then,” he said. Chris Bonk, VP and sheetfed director for INX lent his 21st-century perspective: “There is no question that, during recent years, the focus on packaging has turned noticeably inward. While exterior package ink and coating properties such as brand color fidelity, gloss, rub, and chemical resistance remain key concerns, issues involving chemical migration have dominated the dialog,” Bonk said. “Indirect as well as direct food contact packaging is under the microscope. Every step in the process is being scrutinized, from selection of raw materials for inks to print-production additives such as adhesion promoters and foam suppressors.”
Siegwerk defines low-migration ink as “suitable to be used for food packaging. It will contain only substances that either do not migrate, or other substances in such small amounts that the migration limits, specific and overall, can be met by the final packaging. Of course, every packaging structure is different, and every substrate that is printed has different barrier properties,” Siegwerk continued. “Thus, it is very important to evaluate the real packaging scenario as a whole and to choose the right ink for every scenario.”
At drupa 2012 a year ago, INX and INX Digital highlighted a range of low-migration ink and coating products for flexographic and offset production and sheetfed folding carton food packaging, among other applications. “Due to our global presence and long-term relationships with food marketers and package printers, we have been intimately involved with all aspects of emerging food packaging challenges,” said INX’s Bonk.
Bonk pointed out while government regulations and industry standards protect the food-consuming public, these requirements along with publicity regarding this issue have catalyzed development of advanced package printing products. A number of Sakata INX Group’s low-migration ink and coating solutions were showcased at drupa and also can be seen at the quadrennial PRINT 13 tradeshow in Chicago this September:
- High performance EcoTech LM sheetfed folding carton inks
- Energy Curable Low Migration flexographic and offset inks
- Oil-resistant gas barrier coating material for food packaging
- Energy Curable Low Migration coatings
Technology and Testing
“INX offerings meet the most stringent standards,” Bonk added. “For example, EcoTech Low Migration sheetfed process color inks are specifically designed for indirect food contact folding carton applications. The EcoTech LM system is formulated without mineral oil, is cobalt-free, and has minimal residual odor. These inks comply with the Nestle Guidance Note on Packaging Inks and conform to U.S. and European food packaging guidelines for outer printing. They also meet ISO 2846-1 standards and are suitable to GRACoL G7 certification.”
Bonk indicated that low odor is a key INX criterion when selecting raw materials, in order to avoid unwanted transfer to the packaging while also avoiding potential health hazards due to chemicals from the graphic process.
“We recommend that low-migration ink testing be performed under actual press conditions,” he cautioned. “This will ensure that a given ink not only meets the single specific migration limit of individual components, but an overall migration limit on all components as well. Of course, it must also comply with brand owner specifications.” Bonk further suggested that brand owners, printers, and converters spell out and publish their respective migration protocols, as Nestle has done with its guidance procedures.
While Nestle has published its own list of “negative chemicals” that either migrate or are odiferous, Sun’s Bean said the FDA makes it very clear that the onus of ink responsibility and testing falls on package printers and converters. “18-point board itself won’t migrate, but there may be concerns over front-to-back contact off a sheetfed stack, for example. Printers can’t turn a blind eye to this anymore,” he warned.