For companies that produce packaging, especially for the food sector, respecting the safety standards relative to the raw materials and processes is of fundamental importance, with a European regulation existing in this regard. Let’s start by analysing the required characteristics and the recently introduced developments at community level.
For companies that produce packaging, especially for the food sector, respecting the safety standards relative to the raw materials and processes is of fundamental importance. According to the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) established by the European Union, materials and articles that come into direct contact with food are subject to more stringent regulations than in other fields. Subsequently, regulation 2023/2006 on the good manufacturing practices of said articles was drawn up.
Inks and other products for food packaging are not subject to the GMP regulation in the form that they are delivered to the customer, but only once they are applied to or transformed into the end product, as declared by the EuPIA, the European Printing Ink Association.
In March 2016, the new Good Manufacturing Processes came into force as a type of ISO standard to examine printed material in direct and indirect contact with food products. According to regulation EC 1935/2004, “the materials and articles intended to come into contact, directly or indirectly, with food must be manufactured, so as to prevent, under normal or foreseeable conditions of use, substances from being transferred to food in quantities large enough to endanger human health, bring about an unacceptable change in the composition of the food or a deterioration in its organoleptic properties”.
The process involving the transferral of ink to the food product is called ‘migration’. The EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has established specific migration limits (SML) for substances with available toxicology data. These limits, which are subject to continual review, indicate the maximum permitted level of migration of a specific substance (e.g. packaging), within a specified period of time (e.g. within the expected shelf life), in a specific food product.
Should the available toxicology data be incomplete, the ‘principle of maximum prudence’ is applied, meaning that the migration limit is lowered to 10 ppb, i.e. 0.01 mg/kg of food product, which represents the instrument detection limit. Migration must never exceed 60 mg/kg of food product (60 ppm), even if the substance in question presents no risk to human health.