Ultra-violet and electron beam-cured inks are not only safe but present clear performance advantages when used in printing on food packaging. So what are the reasons behind their image problem in some quarters?
FoodProductionDaily.com caught up with Don Duncan, from Wikoff Color Corporation, to separate fact from industry uncertainty and consumer misinformation.
The R&D chief for the US-based company explained that UV and EB inks have been employed in food packaging for years but that two food recalls in the last decade because of wrongly formulated product has seen them come under intense scrutiny.
Migration of chemicals into baby food and, in 2009, leaching of the substance 4-methylbenzophenone into breakfast cereals triggered consumer fears and sparked wholly incorrect industry rumours that UV/EB inks had been banned by Nestle and the European Union, he said.
Duncan said the key to avoiding a repeat of previous “mistakes” is good communication between packaging suppliers and print companies over the end use of product – so that formulation can be tailored to ensure only food contact substances are employed.
He also questions the strictness of recent Swiss guidelines on inks and cautioned that should other European countries begin adopting progressively more stringent measures, multinational companies could face stark challenges in seeking to comply with individual national regulations.
In the aftermath of terrorist attacks such as 9/11, Duncan believes that consumers have become more wary of what they eat. They react negatively to any news that a foreign substance is leaching into food – which in turn has fuelled some of the public fear over EB/UV inks, he said.
But he is convinced that used properly the inks are safe. And given the performance improvements they allow, he forecasts their use will grow significantly in food packaging.