RTE Benelux Food Packaging Seminar

March 12 2009, RadTech Europe organised the “Benelux Food Packaging Seminar” for UV printing and food packaging as a follow-up to the highly successful German and Italian seminars on the same topic. The seminar took place in Veenendaal, the Netherlands and attracted nearly 50 participants.

In the packaging sector, producing “safe” printing with regard to food contact is of great importance. Graphic companies find themselves facing continually developing legislation, which is becoming ever more restrictive and articulated.

Following a brief welcome by the main organiser, Mr. Bernd Brandl (IST METZ) and the venue host Mr. Karel van Pinxten of the knowledge centre GOC, 13 speakers from industry and science provided guests with a current overview of all aspects of UV printing for food packaging.

In addition, Mr. David Helsby presented RadTech Europe’s statement regarding the hot topic of 4-Methylbenzophenone (for more on this, see the 4-MBP article elsewhere in the newsletter and the RadTech Europe website).

Mr. Brandl started with a short introduction to RadTech Europe, explaining the attendants the mission, structure and activities of the Association.

This presentation was to be followed by RTE’s statement on the 4-MBP issue, but due to a unfortunate car accident, Mr. D. Helsby was delayed. As such, it was decided to postpone this presentation till later in the day.

Instead, Dr Valter Rochelli of IRC Pack,Italy, together with Mr. Paulo DeMicheli (Cytec), presented the results of the Italian study on inks for food packaging. He clearly explained the testing methods and results. He showed that a validation protocol and set of analytical methods had been successfully developed, allowing for the evaluation of migration of ink compounds. His conclusion was that the inks evaluated in this study can be considered appropriate for the printing of food packaging.

Mr. Gerard Brieko of IST METZ then discussed process security of UV-hardening for Food Packaging applications. He argued that several factors have a direct influence on the manufacturing process of food packaging within a printing machine. These factors include:

  • The substrate;
  • The ink/lacquer;
  • Auxiliary materials;
  • The UV unit;
  • The machine operator.

To ensure process security, all these factors should be controlled. Basically, this comes down to two key elements: the choice of the right technology and the training of the operator.  Mr. Brieko urged the audience to recognize the importance of the latter: expertise of the user is critical for process security and training of personnel can help increase process safety.

Mr. Paul Gevaert (Cytec Surface Specialties) discussed the market and new resin developments in UV for indirect food packaging. He gave a short overview of the newest graphic arts trends and the penetration of radiation curing in the market inWestern Europe. He concluded there were many opportunities for UV, but that perceptions regarding the technology block widespread adoption of the technology. According to him, there are many new developments which can increase acceptance of UV and EB for food packaging. However, to make UV successful in food packaging, everybody in the chain will need to take his or her responsibility and an effective information stream needs to be created throughout the complete food packaging chain.

Following this, Mr. Ian Hutchinson of Sartomer gave an overview of the UV/EB market in Europe, explaining the UV/EB curing development inEurope since the 1970’s and highlighting the current market and the future needs and challenges. He summed up that the technology has grown continuously over the past twenty years and is in a good position to respond to the challenges of the future, such as the growing desire for green technology.

Mr. Harold ter Wal of Flint Group then was given the floor to give a valuable ink formulator’s point of view. He explained the basic formula and mechanism of UV inks, and its advantages compared to conventional inks. He then turned his attention to the use of UV inks for food packaging, explaining how Flint Group chose inks for the Italian studies, mentioned earlier.  However, he reminded the audience that the ink only constitutes one part of the whole packaging. As such, it is  also important to chose the right substrate and ensure that the printing process, as shown by Mr. Brieko earlier, has to meet Good Manufacturing Practices.

Although many presentations already briefly touched on the subject, Ms. M. Verbruggen of the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority gave a thorough overview of relevant European legislation for the use of inks in food packaging. She then demonstrated what this means for the responsibilities of the ink producer, packaging producer and food packer.

Prof. Leo Goeyens of the Belgian Packaging Institute then explained progress in analytical methods to determine the curing of UV inks. One of the challenges here is the enormous complexity of the printing procedures, as there is a diversity of substrates, procedures and used chemicals. Of particular interest here is the ongoing development of analytical procedures that simplify testing procedures. The two initiatives here are the development of:

1.     a threshold for toxicological concern - This means chemical substances only should be identified if they are present above a relevant threshold, based on knowledge and understanding of realistic exposure. If this is officially recognized and ready for implementation in the future, it promises to greatly simplify and streamline analytical testing.

2.     activity screening of metal contamination and bio-analytical screening of endocrine receptor activities, which are being studied by the Belgian Packaging Institute, the University of Brussels and Biodetection systems.

Mr. Adelbert Schoonman of Drent Goebel then showed the research initiatives of his company and some specific solutions Drent Goebel is developing, such as Variable Sleeve Offset Printing (VSOP).

The requirements of end-users were the topic of the presentation of Mr. Uli Kretzschmar from Gallus. He stated that printers are looking for anything that:

  • improves efficiency;
  • suits shorter runs and/or high output;
  • has inline capabilities;
  • offers ways to differentiate;
  • enables faster throughput;
  • is sustainable

He concluded that inline packaging printing with UV can meet these requirements, offering many benefits over conventional processes.

Another end-user, Mr. Werner Veit (Teich AG) explained the measures his company has taken to avoid migration of inks into food. Teich AG started by identifying the factors of influence, such as the press process parameters, used ink and the contact with the reel. They then did worst case evaluations, varying these parameters, to identify the impact of these and find the optimal set-up. By doing periodical migration testing, precautionary maintenance and Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP), Teich AG is able to guarantee the fulfilment of food law requirements and product safety.

Finally, Mr. David Helsby gave out the RadTech Europe statement on the current 4-Methylbenzophenone situation at the end of the seminar, clearly stating RTE’s recommendations and initiatives to promote the save use of UV for food packaging. For more information on this statement, please see the RadTech Europe website.

All in all, the day was highly informative, and the presence of approximately 50 participants from all areas of the industry clearly illustrated the importance of the subject to the food packaging industry.