/ 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?

Comments
Member

Joanna found some fascinating packaging-related injury stats from the 1990s (PDF file)

Those corned beef cans can be painful!

Member
Mo says:
5 April 2013

I especially liked the comment at the bottom of page 10 🙂

Member
Les Harvey says:
8 May 2013

My bugbear is what happens whenever I injure myself on the packaging?
I cannot open the packaging around the plaster I so desperately need,
because it is covered in my slippery blood.

Member
Sol says:
8 May 2013

I feel that this form of packing could lead to serious injury if some old or disabled person tried to open the plastic sealed packaging one finds from supermarkets. I definitely think the matter should be raised with your MP & get a campaign going to stop this unnecessary dangerous practice.

Member

I use a small knife with a retractable blade. This will tackle most packaging with ease and in many cases there is no need to have more than 1 mm of the blade protruding.

Member
Anthony says:
27 August 2013

If like an awe full lot of people for a lot of reasons cannot use a blade because their hands are not dexterous. Even 1 mm of blade can cause as much damage or more than opening the package.

Member
Mo says:
5 April 2013

Another casualty of too much packaging! I wish stuff just came in brown paper and string 🙂

Member

I’d love to hear about what products get your goat, and I’m including those ones that you can’t reseal, or sometimes even get the food out in the first place!

Member

Brazil nuts are a particular problem, requiring effort and skill to extricate from their shells. Coconuts are as bad and impossible to reseal.

In contrast, bananas are superb, allowing the user to access the contents without any tools and without contaminating the contents, a design adopted years ago for syringes and other sterile medical consumables. The packaging of a banana is biodegradable and even changes colour to indicate when it should be consumed. Bananas are also available in multipacks that can be split and sold singly. Clever packaging has made the banana the most popular fruit, even if others are more exciting.

Manufacturers could learn a lot from nature. Easy-peel oranges offer just as much protection for the contents as those oranges we have to struggle with.