Tamper evidence is vital but today's consumers also want to be able to break those seals easily writes Pauline Covell

These national newspaper headlines – just a few from many published during the infamous baby food terror tampering scare of 1989 – reflected the public’s horror that glass and needles had been reportedly found in jars.

Just a few years before – in October 1982 – a rash of seven deaths from Chicago-area patients who had taken Extra-Strength Tylenol panicked the USA after it was discovered that a batch of the non-prescription painkiller had been poisoned with deadly cyanide. The maker of Tylenol quickly recalled 264 000 bottles, and officials called on drug companies to provide tamper-resistant packaging. The perpetrator was another extortionist.

In 1990 Perrier recalled every bottle after benzene contamination was found in a few containers. A year later the Wall Street Journal Europe reported: “Following the arrest of animal rights activists, who allegedly plotted to slip contaminated bottles onto British supermarket shelves, 5M bottles of Lucozade were recalled.”

These events not only scare the public but also can wreak havoc with a brand. Recalls are a nightmare. In extreme cases the share price of the producer can fall dramatically. Sizeable investment has to be made to restore consumer confidence.

Even with the ingenuity of today’s packaging technologists, tamper evidence is the best it will get. Nothing can ever claim to be tamper proof. Nothing can ever completely stop the determined tampering criminal or terrorist.

Today, tamper evidence is almost taken for granted. Have the global terrorism events of the last two years had any further effect on packaging demands such as has been seen for brand authenticity and security, for example?

Head of International Consultancy at Pira International Graham Cox says: “In general terms there is certainly extra vigilance and a fear that urban terrorism could extend to this area. But people are being very discrete about what they are doing. They do not want to cause unnecessary scares.

“What’s happening is an increase in efforts to find solutions from company to company rather than overall standard closure solutions,” he hints. People may be looking outside their usual sources for solutions.”

Jeremy Brook, sales and marketing director of Bericap UK, confirms: “Tamper evidence is in virtually every form of packaging. Yes, terrorism has affected the way people have been looking at it. It goes further though.

“Companies are seeking reassurance that the packaging has not been contaminated even before it reaches the filling lines. We actively have to demonstrate security in our manufacture.”

Managing director of Decorative Sleeves Dale Hambilton says that tamper evidence can be turned to a brand’s advantage. “Packaging, particularly in the retail sector, has always had to reflect or respond to the latest market developments or consumer concerns. “The industry’s role has never been purely reactive. While initial circumstances may dictate a course of action, the skills and ingenuity of the packaging designers and manufacturers are often instrumental in further shaping and building the markets as a result.

“While the scare stories of the 80s inevitably bagged the headlines in the national media, another perennial problem for the retail industry was that of consumers – and staff – sampling products without purchasing them.

“Tamper evident systems provided the solution to both areas of concern, protecting products, ensuring their integrity and generally providing reassurance to consumers, retailers and manufacturers.”

But now more is required. “Consumers can be a fickle bunch,” he says. “They want the reassurance of tamper evidence but not at the expense of convenience or ease of opening. Similarly, retailers and manufacturers want tamper evidence to satisfy consumer demand – but such a feature cannot be to the detriment of the overall look and appeal of the pack.”

Comments Jeremy Brook: “Consumers want the external evidence of any tampering, but they also want ease of access. In dairy applications 60% plus packs rely on the inner induction heat seal to indicate tampering rather than any mechanical addition to the threaded closure,” says David Joy of closure specialist Portola.

The company is also a major supplier of mechanical closures to both dairy and juice industries [for example, its Twinseal ll 38mm cap with patented tear strip] as well as pull up sports closures with tamper evident overcap.

It is in this area that we can expect more development to meet the consumer friendly needs, yet retain tamper evidence. “A single piece drinking spout is on the drawing board,” he told Packaging Today International.

Graham Cox of Pira is firmly of the opinion that tamper evidence and openability are both vital and that they are not mutually exclusive. “Functionality is very high on peoples’ lists but never at the exclusion of product integrity,” he emphasises.

“It is the combination of form and function that lies at the heart of most successful packs and it is this same principle which has influenced the development of tamper evident systems, particularly among sleeve manufacturers,” states Dale Hambilton.

The wider aspect of packaging design has also played its part. Awkward shaped containers are sometimes difficult to decorate or label effectively. Using both a tamper evident seal and a decorative label on a small container can sometimes be too cluttered and intrusive.

In either case an alternative could be a highly decorated seal that fits over the neck and closure to combine tamper evidence and attractive labelling in one decorative sleeve.

“Taking this a step further many packs now incorporate a sleeve label that extends the full length of the product and over part of the closure. This creates a removable tamper evident seal, which leaves the rest of the label intact.

“The flexibility of the sleeve in fitting exactly around the contours of the pack, the quality of the graphics and the range of special finishes mean that premium brand image and tamper evident security are all combined in one packaging solution,” he stresses. “In this way tamper evidence becomes part of the overall pack design.”

&#8220No longer is tamper evidence an afterthought in the design process. The question ‘what is our need in tamper evidence?’ is being asked right at the very start”

Graham Cox, Pira International

While the sleeve can provide protection to the retailer and manufacturer at the most fundamental level – unwanted interference – brand protection today often means more than tamper evidence. It can also cover the area of counterfeiting.

“We have already undertaken significant development work in this area, utilising holographic devices and a range of specialised ink systems to create various anti-counterfeiting measures. This is something which we are continuing to explore and expand,” he reveals.

The latest generation of Bericap UK’s custom-designed closure system for Elopak’s gable top cartons incorporates a special double tamper evident feature. First commercial production of the recently launched Elocap-Up is being supplied to a major own-label juice filler.

Made at the closure manufacturer’s Hull operation as part of a strategic alliance between Bericap and Elopak AS across Europe, it combines a screw cap and threaded spout for consumer convenience, offering easy opening and pouring with an effective reseal.

An external band on the screw cap and a pullout membrane in the spout provides double tamper evidence. Caps are moulded in HDPE while the spout is of LDPE. They are ultrasonically welded into the carton prior to filling and sealing. “The product has also opened up a significant new market sector for Bericap UK,” says Jeremy Brook.

Nowhere in the sporting world is tamper evidence perhaps more important than in guarding the integrity of medical specimens of blood and urine, it was highlighted at the Australian Olympics.

Now Amcor Closures Australasia has developed and patented an innovative cap that offers a double tamper evident system for the specimen containers. This is achieved using two parts that interlock and are held together using an annular clip. The complete cap is screwed on to the sterile container.

When the capped container is received, the cap should be in pristine condition. No tamper evident edges or bands should have been broken, ensuring the container is still sterile.

On opening, the inner part of the tamper evident band is broken and stays on the container. When the specimen has been given and the cap is screwed down, the inner section of the cap is pushed up through a centre panel of the outer cap.

The system works on a series of connecting bridges that engage depending on which stage of the two opening actions has taken place.

The outer closure’s tamper-evident band re-engages the container and should still be intact when the specimen is received by the testing laboratory to ensure no tampering has taken place from the time the specimen leaves the athlete until it is opened by laboratory staff.

Variations in bridge strength between the inner and outer tamper-evident bands enable the bands to break differently at stages one and two. The inner and outer sections of the closure are supplied in different colours for clear tamper evidence.

An inner spigot seal is claimed to ensure there is no leakage of the specimen. Concise instructions are engraved on the closure to ensure proper use.

Alcoa Closure Systems International has launched its Alco-Lok closure line for liquor packaging in the USA. Designed for both PET and glass finishes, it provides tamper evidence including both visual and audio indicators when the product is opened. It features complete band separation. Both 28mm and 33mm versions with an optional pour fitment are available.

RPC Verpackungen Kutenholz has developed and designed a convenient bottle for the new breakfast drink from Dutch dairy products manufacturer Campina.

Marketed in Germany and Austria NutriStart is intended as a convenient healthy and tasty alternative to breakfast.

The 300ml bottle, extrusion blow-moulded in HDPE, has been developed for maximum on-the-move convenience, with a curved grip for ease of handling.

The closure from Bericap Germany features a tamper evident drop band that breaks off when the bottle is opened.

All the HDPE caps have a 38 2-start thread and are embossed with the Campina logo. The container is completed with a Decorative Sleeves six-colour OPS sleeve for optimum vertical shrinkage.

There is considerable evidence of much closer working between container and closure manufacturers on the whole issue of tamper evidence.

“The marriage is better than it has ever been in my time in the business,” confirms Graham Cox. “There is a clear desire on behalf of the container industry to work to make sure the closures work well on the neck finishes.”

He concludes: “No longer is tamper evidence an afterthought in the design process. The question ‘what is our need in tamper evidence?’ is being asked right at the very start.”