Consumers put their trust in product labels, most without thinking about it too deeply. This trust, however, can easily be abused by fraudsters.
Brands need ways to protect their labels from misuse, protect the integrity of their products, and preserve the confidence of their buyers.
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 dollar-store cold cream? The average consumer may not know the difference until they open the jar. By then, it may be too late.
Electronics brands must combat counterfeiters, as well, often relying on an unadulterated label to indicate when a consumer has voided a warranty by performing unauthorized repairs.
What are Tamper-Evident Features and Where Will You See Them?
In the world of labels, a tamper-evident feature is any element of the label that visibly changes when the label is removed or when the item to which it is applied has been opened. The purpose of these features is to alert users to the possibility of that someone may have altered an item.
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.
Types of Tamper-Evident Features
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 due to their fragile nature. If you’re interested in using highly frangible film for your product labels, make sure your printer 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 been rewarded for your efforts with the word “void” remaining across the surface where the label had been.
Hidden messages 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 break apart internally, leaving behind an indication that at least the label has been breached.
Dies are the tools that label printers use to stamp 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 more sophisticated versions of the same concept in the form of labels with perforations designed 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.
While there are plenty of tried-and-true methods of making labels tamper evident, 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.