Choosing Food-Grade Inks for Meat Packaging

To comply with state laws and distributor policies, those in the protein packaging industry must use food-grade ink for meat product marking. Here’s why.

Like dairy and egg packaging, meat production is one of the most highly regulated sectors in the US food industry. From facility conditions to product storage practices, meat producers are beholden to a number of state and federal regulations that affect how goods are processed, stored, and packaged. Depending on the type of food produced/meat involved, companies will have to comply with regulations set by either the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and/or state legislators.  Regardless of which governmental agency is creating the industry laws, however, proper labeling guidelines are a consistent requirement. 

Food product packaging—and meat products in particular—must carry a number of markings in order to ensure consumer safety and distribution success. Expiration dates, for example, are necessary for telling customers and retailers alike when products are no longer safe for consumption and should be tossed. Lot codes, serial numbers, and barcodes similarly aid quality assurance by enabling companies to trace all products back to their sources. With full traceability, businesses can protect consumers by quickly and thoroughly recalling products in the case of a bacteria outbreak or other emergency situations.

To ensure that these codes remain legible throughout the product life cycle, companies must apply them with substrate compatible ink formulas. Additionally, certain situations require food-grade ink for meat product packaging. 

If you’re wondering how to best code your meat products, here’s what you need to know.

The Importance of Substrate Compatible Ink for Meat Packaging

For food products to meet modern coding standards, all applied markings need to remain clear and machine scannable until the end of the retail process. To create long-lasting codes, it’s essential to use an ink formula that is compatible with the material used to package the product. 

Ink/substrate compatibility is an essential consideration due to how surface porosity differs from one material to the next. After all, codes are only legible when the applied ink is given an appropriate amount of time to dry. Whether or not the material is able to absorb the ink significantly impacts both drying time and effectiveness. Accordingly, one must be diligent in matching their inks with their packaging materials—especially in a field like food packaging that utilizes a wide variety of substrates.

Some of the most common materials used in meat packaging include:

Most of these materials can be successfully marked with either standard solvent-based ink formulas. However, there are many scenarios where packaging companies need to use food-grade ink for their meat products.

Instances Where Food Safe Ink Becomes Necessary

“Food safe” ink are formulas that only contain additives that have been explicitly declared safe for use in packaging and food contact substances by the FDA. While most forms of meat packaging don’t require food safe inks, any time a marked surface has the chance to directly or indirectly come into contact with the meat itself, food safe inks are considered to be necessary. In an industry like meat packaging that’s filled with diverse packaging forms, these formulas are a common necessity. 

Packaging types that frequently require food safe inks include:

  • Raw meat packages that have marked pads beneath the product
  • Salad kits with premade chicken that contain marked dressing packets
  • Various types of raw pet food packaging
  • Assorted restaurant applications

To help food producers keep consumers safe and stay code compliant, ink producers like InkJet, Inc. carry a number of food safe formulas for a variety of marketing technologies, including continuous inkjet and thermal inkjet printers.

For instance, OS496 is guaranteed to be a safe option for surfaces that come into contact with meat products. Similarly, InkJet, Inc. offers a number of other formulas and printing consumables that can help food packaging companies comply with regulations and ensure full product traceability.

Need Food-Grade Ink for Meat Packaging Applications? Contact InkJet, Inc. Today

In the meat packing industry, code compliance relies on one’s ability to create product markings with the right equipment and the right ink. At InkJet, Inc., we help companies achieve ongoing coding success by offering a wide range of marking products and guidance from an experienced team of industry professionals. If you need help finding the ideal hardware and ink formulas for your operation, contact our team today to end your search.

To find food-grade ink for meat applications and other coding necessities, contact us online today or call 1(800) 280-3245

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