IIT Roorkee develops edible ink for food safety

Can be used for printing on fruits and vegetables as an alternative to stickers

Researchers at the Department of Paper Technology, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, have developed a water-based edible ink for printing and packaging applications that is manufactured from 100 percent plant-based material i.e. “catechu” without using any chemicals.

This ink is a substitute for synthetic ink, which is environmental friendly, non-toxic, and suitable for different packaging and printing applications. The ink, developed by Professor Kirtiraj K. Gaikwad (R) and his M.Tech. student Lokman Hakim (L), has been developed to address the challenge of finding an environmentally friendly substitute for food printing.

In the recycling of packages, synthetic ink is difficult to separate from printed packages, and the results can contribute to worsening environmental conditions. This is especially true in a country like India, where the consumption of packaging is estimated to be nearly 373.6 billion units in 2021. Furthermore, solvents and chemical components present in synthetic ink can lead to skin irritation and dermatitis upon skin contact.

Surface branding refers to brand stickers placed on fruits and vegetables. These stickers also contain different additives with low toxicity, so any exposure from the occasional, unintentional consumption of a sticker would be expected to be a health concern. The developed ink is edible and can be used for printing on fruits and vegetables as an alternative to stickers.

“We can print directly on non-food items such as paper and paperboard, as well as edible food such as chocolate, fat, gelatin, dough, mashed potatoes, cream, sugar, cheese, and so on. This is a novel idea of edible ink to print directly on food substrate; it not only uses plant materials but also alleviates the pressure on the environment and food safety,” said Professor Gaikwad. 

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