Taurus Packaging


After its prolong use in printing inks for food packaging, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has officially banned the use of Toluene in India.

Toluene-based printing inks have been a part of the Indian packaging industry for a very long time. They are used extensively in the Rotogravure Printing technique.

However, there has been a growing sensitization about the ill effects of this harmful chemical. And while several countries had banned its use some years ago, India is now one of the latest entrants to join this list.


What is Toluene?

Toluene or Methylbenzene is a hazardous and toxic chemical solvent. It is colourless and has a characteristic odour, often associated with paint thinners.


The Original BIS Standard IS 15495:2004 

In 2004, the first Indian Standard 15495 was published to lay down the code of practice for printing ink for food packaging.

The aim was to guide companies manufacturing printing inks used on food packages so they would not include any dangerous or harmful chemicals in their inks.

It also offered assistance to food packers and manufacturers of packages so they could select the right quality of printing ink.

Guidelines were prescribed for the exclusion of specific substances from formulations of printing ink used on food packages.


Amended Version IS 15495:2020 

In July 2020, BIS published its first amendment to the 2004 Indian Standard in which Toluene was added in the exclusion list in Annexure A. What this means is that Toluene should no longer be used in manufacturing printing inks.


The Reason behind the Historic Amendment 

Toluene is dangerous on many counts, not only for those handling the printing tasks using Toluene-based inks but also the end customers. It is because Toluene can migrate from the inks in laminates onto the food product packed inside it.

Exposure to Toluene is harmful and can lead to several health issues such as nausea, dizziness, skin problems, difficulty in breathing, burning sensation in the eyes and nervous system damage.


Toluene-Free Inks are the Future

Many food brands are now making the necessary shift to ensure that their packaging suppliers comply with the latest amendments and provide them with Toluene-free printing inks.

While many ink suppliers have complied with the ban on the use of toluene-free inks, others too will follow their lead.

Many ink suppliers like Sakata, DIC, Toyo, Flint, Huber, Uflex etc are already ready with Toluene-free printing inks.


The Effects of Toluene Ban on the Indian Packaging Industry 

Now that the ban on Toluene has officially taken place, it will have a significant impact on the packaging prices.

Prices are all set to rise as Toluene-based inks are cheaper, and Toluene as a retarder is also cheaper than the other solvents used in printing.

Expected Future Changes in the IS

Another component in many inks considered to be quite harmful is Ketone. Contact with Ketone or its inhalation can cause skin rashes, eye irritation and even permanent damage.

Expectations are that Ketone, too, might be banned from use in the coming future. 

The BIS ban on Toluene in printing inks is a step in the right direction. It will contribute to making the Indian packaging industry a safer domain for workers as well as customers.