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Computer ink is something most of us encounter daily. While it’s meant to only make its way onto paper, accidents do happen. What if you were to accidentally ingest some of it? Or chew on a printed paper by accident?
Should you go to the ER? Is ink edible? Let’s get to the bottom of it!
Toner or Ink? What’s the Difference?
Even though printer ink is everywhere today, some confusion still lingers with the general populace. The confusion stems from two different but related terms: ink cartridge and toner cartridge.
Both are valid terms but are used for different types of printers altogether, and their means of application onto the paper are starkly different as well – though that is less important for us.
Printer ink as we know it actually comes in two forms: ink cartridge and toner cartridge. Let’s see where the differences lie:
The toner cartridge is used by laser printers. It is filled with toner powder, which is a mix of coloring agents, carbon, and plastic particles. Most importantly, toner powder is dry, as its name suggests.
Ink cartridges are used by inkjet printers. Whereas toner cartridges are powder-based, ink cartridges are liquid-based.
Different coloring agents are used in the making of ink cartridges as well, in addition to resins, varnish, and various additives that affect the overall quality of the ink.
The simplest way of discerning the two types of cartridges is that ink cartridges are used for the printing of high-quality pictures.
This leads us to the main topic of the article: the edibleness of ink.
Is Ink Edible?
Short answer: No, ink is not edible. Although, in small quantities, ink is not toxic to humans, ingesting it in bigger amounts can lead to sickness.
Longer answer: Printer ink has to undergo rigorous inspections and adhere to high safety standards, which include health standards. That does not make it edible, however.
In the food industry, ink is used to label different food products, sometimes even directly onto the item (like meat, for example).
Such ink is safe to consume, but one should still not go out of their way to consume it in large amounts. Even if drinking a whole ink cartridge wouldn’t necessarily be lethal for a person, it wouldn’t come without any side effects.
On the other hand, the byproducts of photocopying such as ink fumes are known skin and eye irritants, but no lasting damage is known to happen from those sources. The irritation happens only due to direct exposure. With basic protection, one should be safe in any print shop.
And thanks to advancements in technology, and the creativity of chefs, society came up with a creative way of using ink by making edible pictures!
You might say that that goes against everything we have set up so far, but bear with us just a moment longer.
Edible ink is a thing! How, you may ask? Don’t let the name fool you – the real answer lies in its makeup.
Edible Ink and Edible Pictures
Just like regular ink, edible ink can be used in printers. However, the difference lies in the end product.
Whereas regular ink prints images and text on regular paper, edible ink prints edible images on surfaces such as rice and frosting paper.
Such pictures are then used to decorate cakes, confectionery products, and baked goods.
The ink itself is made out of water, sugar, and plant oil. Coloring agents approved by the FDA are added to dye the mix and give color to the ink.
Edible Ink Printers
Edible ink can technically be used in the same printer as regular ink – but due to the possibility of contamination, that is not the recommended course of action.
When using edible ink cartridges, one should do so in completely new printers. That way any residual ink or fumes will not mix with the edible ink, nor the printing surface.
An edible printer should be solely dedicated to the use of edible ink.
And, since we are talking about liquid ink, only inkjet printers are capable of supporting printing with edible ink.
So, is ink edible? Don’t let the picture you printed fool you – even if there’s a delicious-looking cake on it, it was still made with ink. And that’s a no-go.
Unless you printed it on some nice rice paper, frosting paper, or anything else that is edible. And with edible ink, too, of course. Then you can dig in and chew up the whole page in all its vibrant colors.