Ink for Food Packaging

We are getting more requests for food packaging lately, and I am concerned about liability as a result of the inks we use.

Though the ink would not be in direct contact with the food product, there is the risk of indirect contact. This would seem to me to necessitate an FDA-Approved ink.

I reached out to a company called Colorcon, who makes an FDA approved ink specifically for letterpress purposes. Their minimum quantity is 10lbs, which is just too much for the volumes we are asked to print.

I’m curious to know if anyone knows of another vendor who may entertain smaller-volume orders.

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Here’s a start regarding food packaging……you may want to read my comments re beer labels on this thread:

What specific type of food packaging are you being asked to print? If you tell us, we may be able to make more specific comments.

There is a lot to think of before you launch into printing for this market segment.

You may or may not have to use FDA approved inks, and as far as that goes, even FDA approved inks may not be the best solution. However, you do need to comply with the government regulations regarding ink toxicity. The easiest way to do this is to get your ink from a company who supplies ink to the food packaging industry. Tell them what you are going to use the ink for and they will be able to help you choose the right ink. However, you are going to be using so little ink that they will not have a lot of incentive to help you, unfortunately.

If you want to pursue this on Briarpress, I can give you more information and more sources to look for information, but I need to know more about what you are thinking of doing.

Thank you for your insight.

The printing project is for an outer sleeve for a plastic-wrapped chocolate product. The paper would never touch the food product directly.

I love the idea of printing chocolate wrappers, but the liability aspect is giving me serious concern.

Outer wrapper should not be an issue. Shop I am in is foil stamping chocolate bar wrappers that are printed offset with no special inks


It seems to me that the ultimate responsibility in the selection of process and materials lies with your customer. If food safety is a concern, then they need to provide you with a clear specification that clearly indicates what standards you need to adhere to. You can then do the research and clearly document that your process and materials meet all requirements as provided by your customer.

They’re the one in the food business, you’re one in the printing business.

I guess that’s true, but I have to buy the ink and if I can only get in 10lb lots that’s going to squash the profits.

This PDF from Flint Group is interesting, and specifically addresses ink migration in chocolate bars:

I will follow up with them about that product and report back with info if I learn anything.

That’s an interesting link to Flint Group. It sounds like the Flint post refers to EU requirements.

Here is info about US requirements:

As I recall, chocolate is one of the foods which most easily absorb tastes, smells and other substances. The fact that it is wrapped in plastic does little to protect it other than keeping it clean. This is especially true if the plastic wrap is polyethylene….greasy and oily substances, especially, will go right through polyethylene.

I recommend that you stay out of the food packaging area. If you are determined to pursue this, probably the safest way would be to require that the chocolate be packaged in aluminum foil. Aluminum foil is one of the best barriers, if not THE best barrier, in food packaging. (This is why most chocolate bars are wrapped in foil).

You are making a business-to-business supply of printed paper to your customer’s specification.

If they want to wrap chocolate in it, and then sell it to retail customers, then it’s up to them to get their spec right.

Make sure this is clearly set out in your contract with them.

I am also looking for a food safe ink, and would love some resources and information @Geoffrey.

We are designing die-cut, letterpress printed paper plates. There will be printing over the majority of the surface of the paper. We have found a food safe paper, but have not had luck finding an ink. I also looked into ColorCon, but was discouraged with their quantity requirement as well. If you have any other resources, I would love to hear about them.

I am also wondering if these products have to be created in a sterile environment? I don’t think any print shop would qualify in that case.

Thank you for your help!


Years ago, I worked for a large packaging company which at the time owned one of the major cup companies. The cup company, as well as printing paper cups, also printed paper plates. They did not use FDA approved (i.e. edible) inks, and they did overvarnish the entire plate. As I recall, the inks and varnish were made of substances which were on the FDA’s list of permitted substances, and/or on their GRAS list (see my foodsafety magazine link above). The pigments were chosen so that they did not contain banned substances such as heavy metals (Google CONEG regulations for more info on this). Also, there is the Housewares Exemption (also see the same link above), which makes things a little easier when housewares are involved.

As I remember, the plates at my company were printed in web (roll) form by flexo. After going through a hot air dryer to dry the inks and varnish, they were then die cut and formed on the same machine.

I think you would have to take the same precautions as above regarding your inks and coatings and, at a minimum, overvarnish the inks. For example, when people cut meat (or whatever) on paper plates, there needs to be as much protection for the inks as possible.

Another thing you need to remember, is that the food cannot be adulterated by the inks and varnish, regardless of what inks you use. For instance, even if you print a food package with edible inks, if the ink transfers to the food and colors it, this is a violation of FDA regulations.

I’m sure none of us have the financial and other resources to submit anything to the FDA and get approval for it. This leaves us at the mercy of our ink and coating suppliers. You need to find inks and coatings which have already been approved for such uses as paper plates.