What Is Food Grade Ink?

Food grade ink is designed to be safe for human consumption because it’s used on foods and food packaging. Each country has its own set of guidelines for imprinting codes and dates on foods, so it’s important that you ensure that the imprinting on the foods and packaging you buy is done with food grade ink.

Several US states have guidelines related to food dyes. The law states that the intentional use of lead, cadmium, mercury, and hexavalent chromium is prohibited and that these metals cannot exceed 100 ppm (parts per million) in totality of all heavy metals combined. There are also challenges that come with imprinting on food products. If the dye/ink isn’t made to use on food, it will smear and be unreadable

Why do food manufacturers imprint on foods?

Imprinting on food packaging and other foods is done for decorative and security purposes. For instance, the numbers you see on fresh vegetables and fruits are special codes required by law.

Food grade ink isn’t certified by the FDA, but it falls under the safe practices guidelines of the FDA, though the industry isn’t overly regulated. Generally recognized as safe (GRAS) is the general practice used for food grade ink.

What makes the ideal food grade ink?

Inkjet printing is the accepted imprinting for edible items. The ink is adjusted to accommodate different food surfaces. The goal is to find the exact formula for each food that is smear resistant and has the ideal solubility, viscosity, surface tension, and is fast drying.

Only a few good grade inks make the cut for imprinting on food. Numerous tests are performed to ensure the proper water levels and formulas that will prevent smearing and for safe consumption.

New Printing Methods and Food Grade Ink Tech

The inks and printing technology used for imprinting on foods is consistently being tried and tested to improve the food grade ink and dye imprinting process. Europe has the most stringent standards for the development of chemical-free food dyes.

What is in food grade ink?

Food grade ink usually has one food grade dye and one food grade glycol such as propanediol. High-quality food grade ink is non-toxic. It contains a water, glycerin as a co-solvent for colors, and natural or synthetic dyes formulated to be ideal for each food surface. Natural substances used for creating these dyes include beet, spinach, turmeric, or other natural extracts. Moisture and impurities are kept to a low minimum.

What are the used for good grade ink?

  • Directly printing on food
  • Cardboard cases and cartons
  • Plastic and film-style packaging (i.e. pouches, plastics bags, shrink wrap, or trays)
  • Glass bottles that contain edible foods and beverages
  • Beverage and food cans

These are just a few things every consumer should know about food grade ink before they purchase and consume foods. Your due diligence in research regarding food grade ink used on the foods and packaging you buy and consume. You want your foods and beverages to be safe for consumption.

Article contributed by Erryn Deane of Needham Ink

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