How to prepare the industry for toluene-free inks

“Awareness towards food packaging is prevalent in the market. While ink manufacturers are making inks by ensuring exclusion list of IS15495 for food packaging, most of the brands like Nestle, Britannia, Mondelez, Mars, HUL (food division), ITC (food division), Coke, Pepsico have have adopted toluene free ink system for their food packaging segments,” says VK Seth, the managing director of Sakata.

Ramu Ramanathan (RR): New standards were introduced by BIS almost three years ago in 2020, what has been the update since?

VK Seth (VS): Changes made in IS 15495 from July 2020, which ensure food packaging is free from contamination (carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic chemicals) is a milestone for the Indian food packaging industry. It not only talks about exclusion lists for ingredients to be used while manufacturing inks but also provides guidelines for printing application in terms of proper drying / curing of inks to avoid unacceptable odour and migration of chemicals from inks toward food.

RR: Any new developments which you detect among the non ink makers?

VK Seth (VS): The Indian flexible packaging is getting matured and brand owners are asking for many other regulatory requirements to ensure safety of food. Compliance to Swiss Ordinance, California CF65 regulations, US FDA compliance for food packaging are also being asked for compliance. In addition, brand owners have their own set of standards like Nestle, Mars, Perfetti and many more to be compliant.

RR: How does Sakata comply with IS 15495 standards?

VS: Being a Japanese multinational subsidiary in India, we are responsibly complying with all relevant regulations including Indian IS 15495: 2020.

RR: In what way does Sakata comply with IS 15495 standards?

VS: Elimination of toluene from its ink formulation for food packaging was implemented way back in 2007 with the introduction of Superlamimate ink for the Indian food packaging segment. It was further upgraded to Bellecolor by removing Ketonic solvents from the formulation. This was from 2008 onwards.

RR: Which Sakata brands are successful?

VS: The brand BelleColor as Toluene and MEK free printing ink for flexible packaging has been most successful.

RR: Work is in progress to make IS 15495: 2020 at par with international norms by incorporating non-intentionally added substances (NIAS). How would this help the Indian ink industry?

VS: In developing markets like India, ink manufacturing has always been treated as a mixture of ingredients like pigments, resins, solvents and additives. With ana lytical competence of ink chemists, extensive scientific works are being done to understand various hazards associated with these ingredients directly or through their derivatives. Focus is to ensure human health and environmental safety also. NIAS (Nonintentionally added substances) has been recognised as a hazard and it is being addressed in ink manufacturing through adherence to various new international regulations.

Once ink manufacturers are aware of NIAS hazard, it will bring excellence to food packaging and environmental safety.

Sakata has focussed on ensuring NIASfree products by using quality raw materials.

RR: What challenges do you foresee?

VS: Quality raw material availability is a major challenge. Contamination in raw materials will impact the quality of inks. Appropriate analytical instruments / methods and their availability are also a challenge for evaluation of NIAS and their hazard.

RR: How does the ink formulation process vary for toluene-free ink?

VS: Most of the raw materials used in the ink industry are compatible with toluene. Inks with toluene delivers better printability in a tropical country like India where shopfloor temperature and humidity are high. Sakata has developed its own Polyurethane resin for toluenefree ink system and uses it effectively in Bellecolor. During formulation, we need to balance evaporation rate of solvents with proper resolubility of inks.

Sakata has focussed on NIASfree products by using quality raw materials

RR: Any message for brands and packaging converters about packaging inks.

VS: Inks for gravure and flexo printing are used for most of the flexible packaging laminates and monolayer. These inks are not suitable for direct food contact and can be used only for indirect food contact in the food packaging. While toluene has been put in the exclusion list by IS 15495, Sakata has already provided options for toluene and ketonefree ink systems.

There are new demands for a Vinylfree ink system and Sakata is ready with such inks. This will ensure environmental safety further by eliminating Dioxin formation during incineration of vinyl base laminates.

RR: Finally Mr Seth, share the name of two toluene-free ink brands in your product portfolio which are popular in India.

(VS): Bellecolor : Most popular toluene and ketonefree high performance ink system for reverse printing and subsequent lamination suitable to retort application. Then there is the XGL0415 SR toluene and ketonefree ink system for general performance reverse printing and subsequent lamination. This ink system is a PVC free ink system.