First line of defence
First line of defence
Pretty pink liquid medicine, little colourful squishy dishwasher tabs, healthy toddler purees with highly chokeable lids…keeping children safe in a world full of tempting products is quite a responsibility. Emma-Jane Batey spoke to industry leaders from manufacturers, brands and associations to see what they're doing to support this important cause.
Child safe packaging is not just for the benefit of highly anxious parents; the ever-more innovative nature of the packaging industry means its an exciting growth area. But this progression can sometimes be at odds with the safety of children and, as prescription medicine consumption increases and more people have busy lifestyles and demand convenience-lead products, the combination can be dangerous.
Figures show that accidental ingestion of poisonous substances are increasing year on year, with both the UK and the US reporting higher figures in people taking prescription medicine and the corresponding risk to children. It is also worth noting that the terminology used with regards to child safe packaging, also called child resistant or CR packaging, does not mean that a product is totally 'child proof'; any parent or caregiver to a curious toddler will know that is practically impossible. Such packaging must also be 'senior friendly', with elderly or physically disabled consumers also able to safely access the product.
Role of rules
Jon Lant, technical director of private brand pharmaceutical packaging manufacturer Origin Ltd is a passionate advocate of both clarity and responsibility when it comes to child safe packaging. As a company that 'excels in child resistant packaging', Hull-based Origin is leading the way in developing and manufacturing packaging that meets the demands of the customer while strictly adhering to relevant legislation. Lant explains, “There is an abundance of information and even some creative solutions available to the packaging industry and, with the ease of access to online information, manufacturers are able to appraise themselves in consumer and regulatory concerns and safety is no exception. There is, however, possibly a lack of understanding what truly constitutes child-resistant packaging and also a preparedness to await regulatory obligation before introducing protection.”
With over 50 years' experience in developing and manufacturing child safe packaging for the pharmaceutical industry and non-medicine products, one area where Origin is particularly focused is where the latest packaging innovation meets with regulations. Lant continues, “The advance in soluble packaging is an example of a welcomed and convenient technological development, in our opinion it has been delivered upon with an apparent disregard of the potential harm to children. Soluble dishwasher tablets for example contain aggressive and corrosive alkaline salts. Ingestion of these products is becoming a common occurrence yet, apart from warnings printed on the box, there is no physical barrier provided in the packaging to protect children. We have a simple belief at Origin that if the label suggests the product is harmful to children, then the packaging should reflect due diligence taken in mitigating the risk.”
Lant suggests there is no need to wait for regulation to change for manufacturers to make potentially-harmful products as safe as possible to curious children, while of course ensuring that the ultimate responsibility lies with the caregiver's safe storage of such items. “One of the services Origin engages in is the pre-testing of child-resistant designs which provides an indication of potential issues inherent in the pack design before submission to the relevant international test protocols. This service can save our clients significant amounts of time and money in failed CR tests.”
Appealing yet responsible
For leading British vitamin manufacturer Natures Aid, the 'healthy, fun and safe' goal of its packaging sits neatly with its product range of vitamins, minerals and supplements for all the family. Marketing manager Shannon Barnes asserts that vitamin packaging must appeal to both the parents and the children, while being safe and easy to use in often time-conscious circumstances. Barnes says, “We don't currently use any focus groups, we simply try to design our packaging with the specific customer in mind. Once we had a great-tasting product which we were confident kids would love, we turned to our product containers. The team took great care to develop the packaging with children in mind; our boxes are vibrant and playful – and do not resemble 'scary' adult medicine – to help put our young customers at ease.”
But as well as appealing to children – always a bonus for parents who can struggle to get children to take vitamins – it is also important that young people do not think of vitamins, medicines or cleaning products as toys. Barnes agrees, “Safety is such an important consideration when selecting packaging. The Natures Aid children's ranges use tamper evident closures, also called tamper indicating, which require a band, connected to the cap, to be broken on initial opening. This provides the customer with an obvious indication that the bottle has been opened or compromised, as the band disengages from the cap. Tamper evident closures also protect the integrity of the product and limit product pilfering.”
Child safe packaging is, understandably, subject to various regulatory and legislative standards, often related to product areas including food safety, medicine and cleaning products/hazardous substances. Natures Aid is keen to highlight its strict production processes in accordance with relevant standards and certifications, as Barnes explains. “Natures Aid only use materials from approved suppliers who can confirm that their products comply with the relevant legislation, namely Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004 on material and articles intended to come into contact with food; Regulation 2023/2006 GMP and Regulation (EC) No. 10/2011 on plastic materials and articles intended for contact with food. All of the materials we used have been tested to ensure that the products do not exceed the limits for specific migration limit (SML) too. Once the desired packaging has been chosen, samples undergo vigorous laboratory testing and assessment by our technical team before they can be approved for ordering and ultimately signed off to house our award-winning products.”
For manufacturers looking to gain further information on child safe packaging, the UK Cleaning Products Industry Association is a valuable knowledge resource. As the leading trade association for companies representing UK producers of cleaning and hygiene products for domestic, industrial and municipal applications, the UKCPI runs awareness campaigns for issues related to product safety.
Chester-based UKCPI has one such preventative educative campaign that focuses on the safety element of packaging. Its ‘Keep Caps from Kids’ campaign has been well-received across various European ministries and poison control centres, as well as the UK's own Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the Child Accident Prevention Trust. Director Philip Malpass explains, “In addition to the legislative measures on packaging, we are convinced that these voluntary actions are essential. Parents and child care providers must be provided with useful tips and be made aware of the need to always keep liquid laundry detergent capsules away from children. To this end, the detergent industry has developed a dedicated digital consumer education campaign which can be found at www.keepcapsfromkids.eu.”
Malpass continued to explain how part of the UKCPI's remit is to offer advice and guidance to members regarding forthcoming legislation and regulation. “The UK cleaning products industry is now worth an estimated £3billion, with a large proportion of that taken up by detergent manufacturers. Detergent manufacturers will continue to feature a standard safety message on their brand advertisements regarding specifically liquid laundry detergent capsules. We are fully committed to achieving the right measures to reduce incidences of accidental exposure in young children. We would like to offer reassurance that other non-laundry liquid detergent capsules have not been given rise to any safety concern. However, as a precautionary measure detergent manufacturers have committed to develop and implement safety measures for these product categories too.”