When it comes to OTC pharmaceuticals and most personal care products, we’ve become accustomed to breaking layers of plastic bands, packaging seals and shrink-wrapped liners, whether opening a new bottle of ibuprofen or a fresh jar of moisturizer.
When that seal is broken by someone other than us, we’re warned and conditioned to think that foul play has probably occurred. We understand that the product could be adulterated, contaminated or otherwise altered, rendering it unsafe.
If we go through this process for most OTC products in the name of safety, why is it that the same standard doesn’t always apply to food or other consumer products?
It’s a question that consumers are starting to ask after viral videos showed shoppers tampering with Blue Bell ice cream and Listerine mouthwash. While the wrongdoers in these videos are likely to face charges, the ultimate challenge facing these companies is the fear of the unknown now instilled among consumers. How often might this be happening with other products stacked on grocery shelves?
Food processors and manufacturers should be concerned. Not only does the way a product is packaged send a message to consumers about a commitment to safety, but it also serves as insurance to companies that the products stay safe after leaving the manufacturing plant.
The technology behind tamper-resistant and tamper-evident seals has come a long way in recent years. Tamper-resistant seals, designed to resist opening and hinder access to a product, are generally more expensive to use and can make opening a package more difficult for the consumer. Tamper-evident seals provide visible evidence to consumers when tampering has occurred and are generally less expensive to use. Each method serves a different and important purpose in protecting consumers.
While food companies may debate which technology is more effective, we have likely reached a tipping point where consumers demand that companies utilize at least one of them as a sign of their commitment to quality and safety.
Some food companies are already using tamper-resistant and tamper-evident packaging, but it hasn’t been accepted across the entire industry. If widespread consumer concern grows, however – as most food industry experts expect it to – tamper-resistant and tamper-evident technology will very likely influence purchasing decisions, particularly if some brands of ice cream and mouthwash use technology that Listerine and Blue Bell don’t.
Our best advice: don’t be the only product in your category without safety seals. Invest in protective measures to reassure consumers about the quality of your products.