Test method for measuring non-visible set-off from inks and lacquers on the food-contact surface of printed packaging materials

E. L. Bradley, L. Castle, T. J. Dines, A. G. Fitzgerald, P. Gonzalez Tunon, S. M. Jickells, S. M. Johns, E. S. Layfield, K. A. Mountfort, H. Onoh, Ian A. Ramsay

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23 Citations (Scopus)


The main objective was to develop a technique to expose spots of invisible set-off of inks and lacquers on the food-contact surface of food-packaging materials. Set-off is the unintentional transfer of components of printing inks from the outer printed surface onto the food-contact surfaces. The target sensitivity was 20 μg cm-2 and the technique should be capable of examining large areas of printed substrate for no more than 4% coverage by set-off. These requirements equate to an ability to detect a worst-case migration potential of less than 50 μg kg-1. Other objectives were the industrial requirements that the equipment should be inexpensive, should be easy to use by existing personnel and should preferably be non-destructive with a clear criterion for pass or fail. The approaches investigated included chemical analysis of solvent extracts, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy and microbeam analytical techniques, but these were found to be cumbersome and had only limited success. The objectives were achieved using an optical approach to excite and observe luminescence from invisible set-off. In model experiments, resins were applied to different substrates (plastic, paper and cartonboard). For a given resin on a given material, the key to success was to maximize the discrimination between the luminescence from the resin and that from the substrate by selecting the optimal combination of exciting wavelength and viewing goggles with selective wavelength filters. The required level of detection (20 μg cm-2) was achieved or exceeded for all ten resins tested on three different plastics. It was also achieved for two different papers and in all but four cases of the resins on three different cartonboards. Quantitation was achieved by the use of a calibration palette prepared using different quantities of resin spotted onto the relevant blank packaging material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-502
Number of pages13
JournalFood Additives and Contaminants
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2005


  • Flexible food-packaging materials
  • Migration
  • Paper and board
  • Plastics

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