Almost everyone looks at the “best if used by” or “sell by” dates on their grocery items. Whether you do it at the store, or at home because you can’t remember how long something has been in your refrigerator, most people notice this kind of product coding.
That date is not just so you know when a product is past its expiration or sell by date, but it also includes a batch code with traceable data that protects consumers. The information printed onto food packaging, produce, dairy, and beverages is a mandated, legal requirement.
The regulations of coding require that coding is clear, legible, and maintains those traits for the life span of the product. This is how manufacturers identify products from a batch in case of a recall and allows them to trace the raw materials used in the batch during the manufacturing of said product to identify the source of the problem.
Now that you know the basic why and how coding is used, here is how coding ink is selected.
Choosing Coding Ink
The five key attributes of coding ink: Drying speed, adhesion, special requirements, and post-printing exposure.
- Drying Speed – High-speed production lines, like you find in food manufacturing and processing, require fast-drying inks. They can’t afford to have codes rubbing off during manufacturing.
- Adhesion Requirements – The ink used on eggs, meat, boxed, and other produce, food, and beverage packaging must resist smearing, smudging, and bleeding onto other things. For instance, a very porous food item can cause the coding ink to bleed, rendering it illegible and non-compliant with the government and industry standards.
- Special Requirements – Specialized coding includes certain things like how the ink samples manufactured by CIJ suppliers can stand the test of time. Rigorous testing and a comprehensive list of considerations go into choosing inks that will withstand a wide range of circumstances from printing to recycling or disposing of the product/package.
- Post-Printing Exposure – Besides making sure the coding ink meets special requirements, it also must be capable of withstanding various environments and chemicals that might be exposed to. Even if they aren’t likely to be exposed to certain chemicals or environments, the standards are still to include a huge list that coding inks must be able to withstand. This includes UV light exposure.
Other aspects of choosing coding ink include:
- Is it specifically compatible with your printer? Since various solutions/fluids are used to change the viscosity of coding ink per the product/package, the printer is an important factor in coding.
- What quality assurance do you have regarding ink manufacturers? Manufacturers should be open about their certifications and qualifications regarding the inks they produce.
- Are all safety and health requirements being met for coding ink? All coding ink must comply with the health and safety regulations of government entities as well as industry standards.
The list of compliance in the industrial coding area is specific, complex, and strict because that ink is necessary for imprinting data onto food and packaging that consumers use daily. Consumers want to feel that the food and beverage industry is taking care to choose the appropriate measures to ensure their safety and well-being.
Article by Needham Ink