Packaging creates a physical barrier between food and the outside environment protecting the food against bacteria, fungus, viruses and spores present in the air. Packaging also protects the food contained inside it from coming into contact with toxic substances, for example, detergent used to clean a dirty shopfloor. Packaging, however, does not protect against potential hazards that lurk inside the food itself. In other words, food still risks being contaminated before it is packaged. “In food packaging, the first and foremost thing is hygiene. If you allow too much humidity or allow too much extraneous activity in the shopfloor environment which is full of solvent, it can carry hazards like bacteria and fungus,” says BS Kampani, CEO and MD of Toyo Ink.
A food packaging company must look at the system it operates in a holistic way. It cannot look only from the point of view of the press, prepress or postpress. A food packaging company has to look at the whole process from the point of view of the environment. “When you are talking about food packaging, then the responsibility of making sure that you are giving safety in the laminate, or the printed material that you are going to deliver is also crucial,” says Kampani. Laminates should not be used for food packaging until physical and chemical curing is complete. “If the substrate is not strong and does not have enough barrier properties, it can give way to inks to migrate from the printed side of the
packaging to the other [food contact] side,” adds Kampani.
“Sensitive food products require complex barrier properties to ensure longer shelf-life, excellent aroma and attractive appearance,” says Dinesh Prasad, plant manager, Surya Fresh Foods. “Cured laminates can be used as barrier coating on inner side of cartons in case of direct food packaging and in case of oil or greasy products like ghee, soap to prevent migration of inks as well as ink bleeding.”
However, packaging alone is not enough to guarantee uncontaminated food. Food produced under the most hygienic circumstances can become unsafe for consumption. Because food products are perishable, bacteria can multiply rapidly inside a package after a certain amount of time if not stored under favourable storage conditions. The shelf-life of food products depends strongly upon storage conditions.