Tamper Evident Labels: Reliably Secure Your Products

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Tamper Evident Labels

In 1982, the Chicago Tylenol murders occurred randomly because, after distribution, Tylenol bottles had been laced with potassium cyanide. Seven people died. The heinous tampering dramatically affected the labeling and marketing of products in the United States.

Before the murders, Tylenol held 35 percent of the over-the-counter pain reliever market; after the murders, they held less than 8 percent.

After implementing tamper evident labels and packaging, like foil seals and other features, Johnson and Johnson, Tylenol’s parent company, regained customer confidence and the brand’s previous market. Unfortunately, the perpetrator was never found. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/tylenol-murders-1982

Prior to 1982, Johnson and Johnson failed to take into account five concerns:

  1. Their consumers were at risk-using Tylenol could mean death
  2. Their product was at risk-Tylenol could be tainted
  3. Their brand was at risk-no one wanted any Tylenol product
  4. Their overall reputation was at risk-Johnson and Johnson was seen as civically irresponsible
  5. Their profits were at risk-Tylenol market share plummeted

Don’t you make the same mistake with your retail products or any of your other assets!

Tamper Evident Labels In Today's Marketplace

Luckily, today quality protection labels are readily available and they often can serve a dual purpose. Because of their unique physical properties, tamper evident labels imprinted with the barcode and/or serial number or using RFID technology allow you to inventory and track valuable information about your retail product.

Additionally, they deter theft and prevent unauthorized manipulation, which protects you, the manufacturer or purveyor from market loss and liability. Such tamper evident labels comfort your consumers as to the safety and reliability of your product. Finally, they also help to identify the location of your product, especially through barcode serialization, if a recall has to be made.

If tamper evident labels had been used in packaging back in 1982, seven people would have lived, law enforcement would have had more tools to find a psychopath, and a company would not have suffered a financial and public perception reversal.

Obviously, tamper evident labels are essential in the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, the US government requires pharmaceutical products to meet very stringent requirements in tamper evident packaging, including physical restraints such as shrink wraps in multiple layers and tamper notifications, such as “do not use if seal has been broken.”

But, far beyond the pharmaceutical industry, some sort of tamper notification is now used by sundry companies for the very reasons Johnson and Johnson overlooked more than 30 years ago. They use tamper notifications because

  • they do not want to put consumers at risk
  • they do not want their product was at risk
  • they do not want their brand at risk
  • they do not want their reputation at risk
  • they do not want their profits at risk

In fact, the government may be compelling you to implement such notifications if you have not taken your own initiative. OSHA, FDA, CPSC are some acronyms with which you may be familiar? Most of their regulations deal with  “foreseeable risk”: a risk that you identify before it could happen and for which your are to take measures to prevent. http://www.zurich.com.au/content/dam/risk_features/product_liability/ris...

Luckily, these risks can be met easily and inexpensively by attaching a tamper evident label  to your retail product or other asset. Although the label does not prevent tampering, the tamper evident label immediately alerts the user if the asset has been changed.

Types of Tamper Evident Labels

One form of a tamper evident label is a tamper evident barcode or RFID label. This polyester label or tag, as it is sometimes called, is affixed to an asset (product, equipment, file) with an ultra-strong adhesive. Using readers to decipher the barcodes or RFID tags, companies are assured that their assets are intact and in place. If the label is missing, inquires can be made to discover the cause: theft, misplacement, or label (and, possibly, asset) tampering. This inventory feature is usually the primary function of the label.

However, as in the Tylenol case, alterations can be made to products in the supply chain and in the hands of the consumer. This is where the secondary function of the label becomes important in terms of company liability and consumer risk. Although difficult, people do remove or attempt to remove restrictive labels. With tamper evident labels, two results usually occur if the label is removed from the product or asset. Often, an adhesive residue will be left on the product/asset’s surface that reads “void” so removal is immediately detectable.

Also, the underside of the label will read “void”; therefore, if the label is intact, future reuse would be detectable. This feature is especially important when counterfeiting is suspected.

However, in other cases, if an attempt has been made to remove a label, a destructible security label will shatter making its absence suspect to those with a vested interest in the retail product or other asset.

Tamper Evident Labels

Destructible Security Labels

Consequently, tamper evident labels might be used in situations similar to these hypothetical examples.

Example 1: A school system purchased and labeled a bank of high tech computers for students to use at school in CAD classes. Fully equipped with the latest hardware, one student decides to steal the high end graphics card installed in the computer, but when the tamper evident label was laboriously removed, “void” still was readable on the computer shell enabling the teacher and tech director to quickly identify the tampered with computer and pinpoint the thief of the property.

Example 2: A caterer served the finest wines at weddings for half the price of the competition, but he gambled a connoisseur invited to the functions would not notice an off-taste, or, worse yet, the absence of a tamper evident label that would shatter on the opening of a new bottle. Using branded bottles over and over again in a counterfeiting scheme, the caterer had used expensive wine for a cheaper substitute for some time. When someone asked to see the unopened bottles and didn’t see the label, his tidy income from fraud ended.

Example 3: An air conditioning company sold a filtration system to a homeowner in the winter. Specifically telling the consumer, on installation, to reverse an air intake valve at the change of seasons, he showed the customer the valve and instructions in the user’s manual. However, the following summer, the homeowner called the company complaining asthma had caused numerous hospitalizations because the home was not being cooled and filtered according to the company’s implied warranty. The company sent a technician to the home who found a tamper evident inventory label across the valve. The label gave evidence that the valve had never moved.The company was not responsible for the medical bills.

These rather commonplace examples would probably not lead to catastrophic ends, but in terms of your company, when might tampering be a cause for concern? When might a well placed label give you a better night’s sleep?

In the long run, it’s all about control of consumer risk, product risk, brand risk, reputation risk and profit risk plus the ability to foresee the risk and eliminate it.

One little tamper evident label can help with that.

Metalcraft makes both barcode and RFID tamper evident labels. In only six business days from order placement, 002" thick tamper evident polyester labels can arrive at your receiving dock. Digital printing ensures even the most detailed logo will look crisp and clean while subsurface printing protects the logos, copy and bar code against solvents, caustics and mild abrasion. Multiple sizes are available. Contact Metalcraft via email or call us at 800-437-5283 for free samples.



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