/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Ouch! I was injured by impenetrable packaging

A hand with a bandaged finger

Easter eggs are generally a positive addition to my Easter, so imagine my discomfort when I inflicted a small wound on myself trying to break into the moulded plastic packaging.

Maybe this is peculiar to the Pearl household, but we seem to be forever wielding implements to try and get into food packaging or any moulded plastic that grips things like electrical goods in its jaws. Our trusty, one-toothed killer knife generally does the job, but I’m just waiting for the day I end up in A&E with multiple lacerations.

And it seems I’m not alone; the last time we had a Conversation about inaccessible packaging, the retractable knife was quite a staple in the war against plastic. Gerard Phelan shared his packaging frustrations:

‘CDs and DVDs get me worked up. They only have a covering of thin film, but it is stuck at the edge and I often find it very hard to find anything to pull. Like others I have to resort to a razor blade, but that risks damaging the case – or ME!’

The perils of pesky packaging

Funnily enough, data collected by A&E departments found that 67,000 people visited them each year due to an accident involving non-medicine packaging, costing the NHS over £12 million a year. This was thought to be the tip of the iceberg, with most people treating injuries at home. I believe this data collection stopped in the late 90s, but I suspect the injuries may not have gone away.

It’s the frustration too. I’m sure one of my incisors is worn down from trying to grind my way into food sachets. And don’t get me started on opening yoghurt pots in the sure knowledge that the dairy avalanche will hit me squarely on the front of whatever pristine garment I’m wearing.

If only I had a pound for every time my partner struggled to fight his way into a milk carton muttering: ‘If I was an old person with arthritic fingers…’

Freedom for fingers

There may be some small rays of light out there, but we’re a long way from perfect packaging. I’m sure digestive biscuit packets are better than they used to be, with those little red tabs you can pull round the top, releasing three crumbling biscuits. And what about those corned beef cans with keys – a serial offender for injuries in the late 90s – does anyone still buy them?

Joking apart, this can be a serious issue, especially for those with poor dexterity or impaired vision. Are you frustrated by impenetrable packaging? Do you avoid certain products because they’re just too much trouble? Or does it cause you or someone you know real problems?

Manon 1753 says:
10 May 2013

Reading through previous comments I’d like to add the pumps that now automatically come with the packaging of shampoos, face creams etc. They are unnecessary and wasteful. If the packaging is hard, take a breadknife and you’ll find another week’s or two weeks’ supply.
Tubes of toothpaste, suncream etc are very easy: using an ordinary shaprd knife, cut them into two roughly equal halves, then insert bottom part into top part. It’s a perfect seal and usually gives you another week’s supply.


The lids of jars of jam, pickle, etc. have to be pierced if the vacuum makes it impossible to remove them. I have never injured myself, but stabbing a lid with a small knife or other sharp object is potentially dangerous.

Perhaps we should be giving examples of packaging that is easy to open. Let me start by commending Duerr’s preserves, which have clever lid design that takes little effort to open. I suppose that there is some risk of interference before purchase but as with other jar lids, this can be checked by pressing the button on the lid.

Harry says:
16 May 2013

Microwave packs — they are supposed to be “convenience food” but far too often they’re “inconvenience” foods. Some are good, with film that protrudes from the edge and comes off quickly and cleanly in a single piece with a quick tug so your hand is away before the steam rises and burns your hand. Others just tear around the outside, leaving the film firmly in place. You have to hack it with a knife and then put your hand right over the hot food to be able to pick up the film which has by now fallen *into* the food.

Harry says:
16 May 2013

On the way to an event, I remembered I had forgotten to take the scissors. No problem, I thought, as there was a supermarket on the way. But at the checkout, it became clear that the only way I was going to be able to use them was to find another pair of scissors to open the packaging. The cashier couldn’t help with that either.

Jackie says:
16 May 2013

Where to start? The list is endless –

Bottles of bleach with child-proof tops which cannot be opened by adults either

Dishwasher tablets – each one is individually covered in thin plastic which has to be cut off because it will not tear

Dvds – I have to stab at the sides of them with a pair of scissors to get into them

Screw tops that won’t unscrew – even my daughter can’t get into them

WeightWatchers ready meals – the film on the top of the meal will NOT tear off – it has to be cut all round the edge

Yoghourts – nearly all of them are difficult to open, with consequent danger of splatter

Cardboard cartons of fresh soup which can only be opened by pulling all the corners at once

Plastic cartons of fresh soup where you have to pull off a removable tab then break your nails trying to remove the lid (Waitrose, please note)

I’m sure there are many I’ve forgotten – I sometimes wonder who tests these things …

noony says:
28 August 2013

A man!!!!!

Concerned citizen says:
23 November 2013

The wrap in dishwasher tablets is made of PLA and it is dissolves in water. You do not need to peel it!!!!

Philip Scribins says:
17 May 2013

Waitrose orange juice packs with the plastic pulls are awful. If the pack opens it is impossible to pour without splashes eveywhere around. Packs with screw openings are fine, except that thay cost more. Why? Solution – buy the cheaper packs and cut the corner off.

Sarah says:
2 July 2013

I bought two Papermate pens in a pack today. Standard cardboard back with a hard plastic front. The problem was that the plastic met the edge of the card exactly all the way round so there was no way to separate the two, and the card was too tough to puncture without tools. In the end I had to cut the packet open. I hardly think that two biros costing £1 need that level of protection!