How can I meet GFSI requirements? Eleven ink-related food safety standards explained

Our recent Global Ink Survey identified Traceability, Quality Assurance, and Auditing as the number one ink management challenge in package printing. That’s why we’re launching a series of blog posts focusing on this important theme.

Our first contribution presents an overview of various food safety management schemes. Additionally, we will summarize eleven food safety standards specifically related to ink.

Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)

In the world of food manufacturing and processing, safety is paramount.

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) serves as a benchmark for ensuring food safety throughout the supply chain. GFSI does not directly dictate standards but instead recognizes various food safety management schemes that meet its stringent criteria.

These schemes provide a framework for ensuring and certifying food safety and quality management systems. This includes aspects such as hazard and risk management, product safety, traceability, and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

Packaging certificates and ink management

While packaging printers may not directly handle food products, their role in producing packaging materials for food items can indirectly impact food safety. Therefore, food manufacturers require their packaging suppliers, including printers, to adhere to their food safety management scheme.

Printers who work with food companies don’t have to use a GFSI-approved scheme, but getting certified voluntarily can help them avoid having multiple audits from different customers. It also makes them more attractive as suppliers.

The main food safety management schemes for packaging recognized by GFSI include:

In this introductory blog post, we’ll map and summarize the standards related to inks within these schemes. The matrix below offers a snapshot of these standards, referencing the corresponding safety code numbers of the three management schemes.

StandardBRCGSFSSC 22000SQF
1. Hazard analysis and risk management2.21.11 and 1.122.4
2. Record keeping3.31.7 and 1.122.3 and 2.4
3. Traceability3.111.9 and 2.122.6
4. Maintenance of production equipment4.72.513.2.1 and 13.2.2
5. Housekeeping and cleaning4.82.5 and 2.913.2.5
6. Waste and waste disposal4.102.413.8
7. Good manufacturing practices, packaging print and process control5.3 and 5.41.913.1
8. Calibration and control of measuring devices5.51.1313.2.3
9. Purchasing and incoming goods5.82.62.3
10. Storage of materials and warehousing5.92.1413.6
11. Training and competence6.11.42.9

In our upcoming blogs, we’ll explain how our ink management solutions help meet all the listed food safety standards. But first, let’s summarize the ink-related requirements of those standards.

1. Hazard analysis and risk management

Printers need to create a detailed hazard analysis and risk assessment that covers the entire product and process. This includes describing the product’s composition, such as inks and coatings, and where materials come from, including recycled ones.

Process flow diagrams need to cover every step, from receiving materials to delivering the product. They also need to describe any safety risks at each step and have measures to control them. FSSC 22000 and SQF require this approach to align with the basic principles of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP)-system.

Can software help me to comply with international hazard communication standards?

Printers that make spot colours by mixing base inks together must take extra care to meet hazard standards. Hazard symbols are likely to get lost unless an appropriate label for the new container is generated.

2. Record keeping

The company needs to have documented procedures for organizing, reviewing, maintaining, storing, and retrieving all records related to product safety, legality, regulatory compliance, and quality. This also includes information pertaining to inks.
Electronic records should be properly backed up to avoid loss, and any changes to records must be documented.

3. Traceability

Packaging printers must establish a documented traceability procedure and system that can track all raw materials, including inks, from suppliers through processing and distribution of the finished product, and vice versa. This includes maintaining traceability during rework and recycling of return inks, and when conducting tests and samples.

Is it possible to perform a full ink traceability exercise within 4 hours?

Tracking the origin of spot colours in ink batches is complex due to their formulation from various base components. Also, the base components of reused press-return inks must be identified. The right software helps to create traceability reports instantly.

4. Maintenance of production equipment

Printers need to follow a written maintenance program for all important production equipment, including ink dispensing systems, to ensure product safety, legality, and quality. This program aims to prevent contamination and minimize the likelihood of equipment breakdowns.

5. Housekeeping and cleaning

Cleaning procedures for buildings, equipment, and vehicles must be documented and followed regularly. Responsibilities, what to clean, how often, how, and with what should be clearly outlined. Cleaning frequency and methods should be based on risk assessment, and strict enforcement is key to maintaining proper cleanliness standards.

6. Waste and waste disposal

Process waste must be managed to minimize release to the environment.
If applicable, waste must be classified according to legislative requirements, considering its intended disposal method (e.g. recycling). It should then be sorted, separated, and placed into designated waste containers accordingly. These containers, including those containing ink, must be clearly labeled.

7. Good manufacturing practices, packaging print and process control

Printers must have documented specifications and purchasing procedures for new ink dispensing equipment. Trained and authorized personnel should exclusively adjust equipment settings, with password protection.
Each dispensed ink batch must be accompanied by a bill of materials, and printed packaging samples must be retained with production records for a duration agreed upon with customers, specifiers, or brand owners.

8. Calibration and control of measuring devices

Measuring equipment, like the weighing scale of the ink dispenser, must be checked and calibrated at a predetermined frequency, carried out by trained staff. All results must be documented.

9. Purchasing and incoming goods

The company needs to document how it purchases and receives raw materials, including inks, to make sure they match what was ordered. This can include using purchase orders and delivery notes. Documents and product IDs should help keep track of stock and ensure materials are used in the right order, and before they expire.

First in, first out: using inks before they expire

Keeping track of inventories for spot colours can be challenging, as base inks used as colour ingredients constantly move between locations and containers within the site. Apply FIFO and use ink inventories before they expire.

10. Storage of materials and warehousing

Inks and inks-in-progress must be clearly identified and used within their shelf life. Inks containing hazardous chemicals and solvents must be handled to minimize risks to product safety, quality and legality, with clear labeling matching contents to containers.

11. Training and competence

Personnel involved in safe food packaging must undergo relevant training. A documented program outlining necessary competencies and training methods for tasks related to Good Manufacturing Practices and work instructions must be implemented. This applies to all handling, storing, and manufacturing of food packaging and equipment, including ink dispensing systems. Detailed records of training must be kept.

Stay tuned

Stay tuned for our upcoming blogs. We’ll detail how our ink management solutions can help you to meet all these standards!

In the meantime, if you require advice on complying with GFSI requirements, feel free to reach out to us. For any other inquiries regarding ink logistics, please contact us at