Product tampering is a significant problem for brands and consumers worldwide. Nearly every product category can fall prey to tampering, from luxury fashion items to food products — and alarmingly, even pharmaceuticals.
Not only can product tampering damage your brand, it can even endanger the very buyers who love, trust and need your brand the most.
As a brand, you need ways to protect your products and your product labels from people who would misuse them for profit or to cause harm.
Fortunately, the latest tamper-evident labels and tamper-proof labels can help you secure your products’ integrity, safeguard your customers, thwart counterfeiters and preserve your brand’s sterling reputation.
The Difference Between Tamper-Proof Labels and Tamper-Evident Labels
Tamper-proof and tamper-evident labels both exist to prevent fraud and misuse, but the two technologies each accomplish their objectives from a different angle:
- A tamper-evident label includes elements that visibly change when the label is removed or the item to which it is applied has been opened. These features alert users to the possibility that someone may have altered an item.
- A tamper-proof label is designed to stop would-be fraudsters from accessing the inside of product packaging, or at least discourage them from trying. Of course, nothing is 100% tamper-proof, but the more difficult it is to tamper with the package, the bigger the deterrent.
Where Will You See Tamper-Evident or Tamper-Proof Labels?
Scan the shelves of any retailer, and you’ll discover that nearly every type of product is protected in some way by tamper-evident or tamper-proof labels.
Luxury and Beauty Products
Counterfeiting is a scourge of the luxury goods market. Loosely monitored online marketplaces have made it easier than ever before for fraudsters to unload fake brand-name products on consumers.
Some of the most copied luxury items are cosmetics and beauty products. These are also some of the most dangerous counterfeit goods. In 2018, for example, officials in the United Kingdom issued a public warning after investigating an influx of counterfeit beauty products that contained ingredients that could cause chemical burns and skin rashes. The seized beauty products included rip-offs of top luxury brands like Chanel.
In many cases, counterfeiters have an easy time creating copies of high-end cosmetics by tampering with the label and product packaging. For example, what’s to stop an unscrupulous seller from peeling the label off a high-end jar of face cream and slapping it on a similarly shaped jar of goodness-knows-what? The average consumer may not know the difference until they open the jar.
Tamper-evident or tamper-proof labels can stop criminals from selling their ineffective or harmful concoctions to your customers under your brand name. These solutions should be cornerstones of any beauty or luxury company's overall brand protection strategy.
Related Reading: Deciphering the Label: Cosmetics Labels
Counterfeit electronics (and the unauthorized alteration and resale of consumer electronics products) are becoming increasingly common. A nearly $1 million cache of fake smartphones was seized at a port in Philadelphia in 2019.
It’s easy to understand why electronics are popular targets for fraudsters. Electronic devices are among the most coveted status symbols for consumers around the world.
Imagine spending hundreds of dollars on a new smartphone only to discover it was a knockoff that lacked critical functionality. Faulty components, such as batteries, can overheat and harm users. Worse yet, counterfeit electronics are often riddled with malware that exposes users to identity theft.
Electronics brands combat counterfeiters with tamper-evident labels and tamper-proof labels. These labels stop criminals from using authentic product packaging to deceive consumers. They also prevent fraudsters from getting into the devices themselves to strip them for parts.
Electronics makers also rely on tamper-evident labels to indicate when a user has voided a warranty by performing unauthorized repairs.
Related Reading: Deciphering the Label: Electronic Equipment Labels
Food and Beverage
As food delivery services have skyrocketed in popularity (a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic), so has the use of tamper-evident and tamper-proof labels in the restaurant industry. Tamper-evident labels help food consumers feel safe.
After all, a lot can happen to an order between the restaurant and your front door. (California even passed a law requiring tamper-evident packaging on all third-party food deliveries.)
While the ready-to-eat industry is just now getting interested in tamper-proofing, prepackaged food brands have been using tamper-evident labels for decades. For example, jar and bag seals that wrap around product openings are plentiful on grocery store shelves.
Commonly, these features are useful as a means to hold a package closed and indicate that it has been opened. Labels that use tamper evident features in this way frequently are referred to as closure seals.
Another common use of tamper evident features is to prevent removal and reuse of a label. We’ve all noticed the small cuts in price tags that make them fall apart when you try to remove them — now you know why those cuts are there.
Related Reading: Smart Label Technologies for Food Products
Counterfeit medication is a dangerous problem in America and around the globe. According to a group of concerned doctors, fake medications may kill as many as a quarter-million children every year with harmful ingredients such as printer ink, paint and arsenic.
Tamper-evident and tamper-proof labels can literally save lives when used with pharmaceutical product packaging.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions patients to keep an eye out for signs of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Among other questions, patients should ask themselves, “Does the drug or packaging look different from what you normally receive?” the FDA says. Tamper-evident packaging makes the difference between “normal” and “tampered with” crystal clear.
Related Reading: Why Pharmaceutical Labels Need an Expert Label Manufacturer
Types of Tamper-Evident Label Technology
Tamper-evident features for labels run the gamut from very simple to highly engineered. An expert label printer will be able to help you choose the right tamper-evident technology for your application and budget.
Here are a few common forms:
Just like those price tags that tear apart when you try to remove them, certain materials used in label production are engineered to, essentially, disintegrate rather than peel off cleanly. Carefully chosen combinations of adhesive and the strength characteristics of the material make this possible.
Label printers have access to certain plastic films that are durable when applied to a surface but are very brittle, technically “frangible,” when subjected to picking or peeling. These highly frangible films require special care in the printing process and the label application process due to their fragile nature. If you’re interested in using highly frangible film for your product labels, make sure your printer (and your label application process) can handle the fragile material.
Not all applications where self-destructing is a desirable feature in the label will require those special films. Sometimes, the bond formed by a permanent adhesive used in combination with the right type of paper stock will yield a useful and visible disintegration of the paper even without the introduction of any cuts or perforations. This is a great example of why a good label printing partner will take the time to ask you a lot of questions about how your labels will be used and what kind of performance factors will be valuable to you.
We’re going to assume you’ve never peeled off one of those labels that imprinted with “warranty void if removed” or similar warnings. But if you had, you might have noticed the word “void” or a colored stain remaining on the surface where the label had been.
Hidden messages and color indicators like this are achieved with specifically engineered materials that contain multiple layers of adhesives and material. When you attempt to peel off labels made this way, they leave behind an indication that at least the label has been breached.
Dies are the tools that label printers use to cut your labels out of the raw label material. Dies are used primarily to create labels’ shapes. The same tool that cuts the shape of a label can be configured to add slits, perforations and other patterns intended to make the label difficult or impossible to remove without visibly changing the label.
The cuts that make those price tags self-destruct are called tamper-evident slits. Most people have encountered other versions of the same concept in the form of labels with perforations designed to hold closed the box around an over-the-counter medication and then tear cleanly as the box is opened.
More subtle uses of die cutting for tamper-evidence include labels used to display information on products that have specific identification numbers or which have been subjected to special testing. Fire extinguishers, for example, that have been tested for compliance with life safety standards routinely have labels that have been scored in the die cutting process in ways that will not interfere with the label’s use while it remains applied but will prevent it from being useful if removed.
Creative Solutions for Tamper Proof Labels and Tamper Evident Labels
While there are plenty of tried-and-true methods of making labels tamper evident or tamper proof, sometimes the application will call for some outside-the-box thinking. This is where an experienced, knowledgeable label printer with the resources to experiment with different possibilities can help.
For example, one of our customers in the beverage industry wanted a tamper-evident seal for one of their high-end products and required that the label not detract from the product’s aesthetic appearance. After a bit of testing, we came up with a solution utilizing a combination of flexible label stock and printing process. The result is a label that blends cleanly into the look of the bottle but deforms, changes color, and becomes unusable if someone tries to remove it.
This is just one example of how a high-quality label printer will help you secure your products and protect your brand with innovative tamper-evident labels. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.