When tamper-evident packaging first came into the spotlight, it was in response to the Tylenol crisis of 1982. Seven people died as a result of drug tampering in the Chicago area, understandably leading to induction sealing and other means to help provide evidence of tampering.
Jars of baby food were also among the first high-profile cases of tamper-evident design. After claims were made that poisons had been added to baby foods on the shelves of supermarkets, the safety button was developed.
Many other forms of tamper-evident packaging have been developed and put to use since, but the technology is perhaps just catching on with commissaries and instore foodservice.
“Tamper-evident containers are seeing more use in commissaries before shipment to retail stores,” says Jack Tilley, market research manager for Inline Plastics Corporation.
The major benefit using the technology in a commissary setting is quite obvious — safety and peace of mind for the end consumer. “The obvious benefit is food safety,” says Jeff Rebh, president and CEO of Innoseal. “Tamper-evident packaging is an added layer of protection valued by manufacturers for the benefit of the consumer. Our customers tell us they would prefer to take the extra step to prevent tampering exposure.”
And while all kinds of food products are utilizing the technology, Tilley says there has been ramped-up interest in the realm of fresh and prepared foods.
“With all the recent publicity in the news regarding food safety concerns, our customers are placing emphasis on limiting any possibility of contamination from tampering before sale to the final consumer,” he says. “While all foods fall under these concerns, tamper-evident packaging for fresh perishable foods is of keen interest.”
That means tamper-evident technology and packaging for grab-and-go foods is important. Inline has developed its SquareWare line of tamper-evident, square clamshell containers to reach that segment. The line includes the company’s patented Safe-T-Fresh design that provides evidence of tampering while also making the container leak-resistant. Also included is the Safe-T-Gard tear strip.
“The packaging is now entrenched with retailers, and the food processors who supply them, as an important and necessary component of their packaging,” Tilley says. “As customer acceptance rises for tamper-evident packaging, retailers are anxious for the packaging to be available for new emerging applications such as grab-and-go foods.”
Innoseal offers its Professional Sealer, which applies a resealable, tamper-evident closure to plastic bags. A unique tape and paper closure system creates a virtual airtight seal for the food, the company says.
“We’re serving numerous markets, including bakery, produce meat, fish and tortilla,” Rebh says, also mentioning increased interest from commissaries and school cafeterias. “We have a unique solution that creates a tamper-evident seal and does it very efficiently.”
In addition to the most obvious benefit of food safety, tamper-evident technology can also help a company’s bottom line with better shelf life and, perhaps, higher sales.
“Our Safe-T-Fresh container line, but its design, is highly leak-resistant, and helps retailers reduce shrink by increasing shelf life as well as highlighting the quality and appearance of the food contents,” Tilley says. “This ensures retailers and consumers have confidence that they are receiving the freshest and safest products possible. In addition, many of these packages also have perimeter seal closing systems, which make them safer for transportation.”
On Innoseal’s side of the market, Rebh says most companies are looking for solutions for loose and bagged product. Closed containers are not as well received. “We see many ideas in development, but very few make it to market,” he says. It seems to be a matter of demand at this point. The lack of consumer demand does not encourage investment.”
At the same time, he says, the demand is there for types of tamper-evident packaging that is already in use, not only for peace of mind, but in order to avoid mistakes form the past.
“Nineteen eighty-two changed packaging forever,” he says. “And no one wants a similar tragedy to occur in the future.”