Ink Marks Food as High-Pressure Processed

In times of growing health awareness, the role of food safety is increasing as well. Chemical preservatives to extend the life cycle of food are being avoided – at least lots of people try to. Because: How can you know for sure that the vegetables on your plate haven’t been treated? That’s where a newly developed ink will bring clarification.

In times of growing health awareness, the role of food safety is increasing as well. Chemical preservatives to extend the life cycle of food are being avoided – at least lots of people try to. Because: How can you know for sure that the vegetables on your plate haven’t been treated? That’s where a newly developed ink will bring clarification.

High Pressure to Preserve Food

But before we get to the game-changing ink let’s go back to start, to the point where chemical preservatives have been eliminated. High-pressure processing (HPP) is the ground-breaking method to serve consumers safe, tasty products with reduced or no chemical preservatives while extending shelf life and improving product quality. HPP is performed after primary packaging, with water – under high pressure – being distributed simultaneously on all sides of a product. Bacteria such as Listeria, E.coli or salmonella are literally squeezed to death while nutrients, texture, and flavor remain unaffected.

Smart Packaging With Smart Ink

Sounds great, doesn’t it? It goes without saying that the food and beverage industry have already embraced HPP. Yet, one problem – a big one – remained unsolved: How can we track errors, such as products slipping through the system?

Chromatic Technologies Inc. (CTI) provides the answer with an ink that visually verifies a product’s high-pressure treatment. Printed onto the packaging is a colorless verification mark which, exposed to high pressures during HPP, turns color.

But that’s not all. CTI has also managed to prevent counterfeiting. Plus, to prevent any machine-drawn errors, they established a built-in quality control mechanism: 50,000 pounds per square inch (psi) is the pressure which food and drinks need to be bacteria-free. While a pressure of 50,000 psi turns the printed verification mark to the desired color, it remains clear at a pressure of below 20,000 psi and increases in color differentiation at 30,000 psi, 40,000 psi and 50,000 psi.

The Printing Process

Producers could worry about an extended workflow due to additional printing processes. Here, Patrick Edson, chief marketing officer at CTI, can resolve all doubts: “[The verification mark is] printed at the same time as conventional package inks. It’s added to the normal printing process as an additional print station in water-based and UV systems (flexo and gravure).” He adds: “HPP can be printed in all traditional printing methods: water-based and UV flexo/gravure/EB [electron beam]. It is not compatible with inkjet.” Laminates, as well as surface printing, work for the ink, but using a protective layer or OPV [over print varnish] is recommended.

The ink is still patent-pending and currently available in water-based and ultraviolet (UV)-cured inks.

Seeing instead of guessing that food and drinks have gone through HPP will surely mark a new milestone in food safety standards. Where could product packaging improve further to make your lunch more enjoyable? Leave us your comment in the section next to this blog post.