food tampering

The case for tamper-evident food packaging

How tamper-evident packaging improves food safety and customer satisfaction.

By Paul Rutherford

It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an enormous increase in restaurant delivery and takeout sales. In fact, a recent Dalhousie University study found that the number of Canadians ordering food once a week increased from 29.6% to 45.4% between the beginning of the pandemic and November. The trend is likely to continue – the same study also suggests that almost half of all Canadians intend to continue to order food online at least once a week. Unfortunately, with people ordering food more frequently, the risk of food tampering has never been higher.

A survey conducted by US Foods found that out of the 500 food delivery drivers surveyed, one in four admitted to eating delivery food before it reached the customer’s home. This has the potential to pose a serious health risk to customers and reflect negatively on the restaurant they’re ordering from.

The hands-off solution to food tampering

Restaurant owners and managers need to ensure they select foodservice packaging that allows their product to be safely delivered to customers.

Fortunately, new packaging designs can help them to do just that. Tamper-evident packaging makes any indication of food tampering clear, providing a highly effective deterrent – and solution – to this problem.

According to Dan Brannagan, president of Danbree Corporation, a manufacturing representative of foodservice disposable packaging solutions, “Consumers are looking for packaging that they are confident is both hygienic and safe. Tamper-evident packaging gives them that confidence by providing them with an increased level of security over regular containers.”

Selecting the right tamper-evident packaging not only prevents food tampering but can also improve customers’ dining experience by properly maintaining food quality and integrity.

Tamper-evident vs. tamper-resistant

Along with tamper-evident packaging, tamper-resistant food packaging is also available.

So, what’s the difference? While they may sound similar, it’s important to understand the difference when choosing the packaging solutions best suited to your food, and your customers.

Tamper-evident packaging provides customers with visible signs that food has been handled, such as a pull tab that must be removed before opening a container.

By comparison, tamper-resistant packaging is designed to discourage anyone other than the customer from handling the meal but does not show any visible signs if tampering occurs. For example, packaging that is difficult to open but is resealable would be considered tamper-resistant.

Making the right choice

While tamper-evident packaging is relatively new, there are various types including clamshell containers with pull tabs, sealed delivery bags etc. As more businesses adopt tamper-evident packaging, the number of options is expected to increase.

Many of the tamper-evident packaging options available today are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic. These are recyclable and some are made with post-consumer recycled material, making it easy to strike a balance between environmental sustainability and health and safety.

So, what should you keep in mind when choosing tamper-evident packaging solutions?

  1. Assess which type of tamper-evident packaging is right for your business. Select the configurations that best suit the type – and temperature – of the food you serve. Then stock multiple sizes and types so you always have the right container to maintain food integrity and quality during delivery. 
  2. Buy from a credible supplier. Working with a reputable supplier not only ensures you get expert advice and a high-quality product that best meets your needs, but also access to the latest innovations in packaging development.
  3. Consider recyclable options. According to a survey by Kearney, 48 per cent of respondents said the pandemic has made them more concerned about the environment, and 55 per cent said they were now more likely to purchase environmentally-friendly products. With concern around making environmentally sustainable choices at the forefront of customers’ minds, choosing recyclable tamper-evident packaging shows customers that a business is eco-conscious and helps reduce environmental footprint.

While there are many types of tamper-evident packaging, they share the benefit of increased health and safety and provide the reassurance that the package has not been opened. That signals to the consumer their foodservice vendor is concerned with their customers’ health and well-being, which can only increase both trust and loyalty.

Paul Rutherford is the Director of Sourcing and Merchandising at R3 Redistribution, ( a national wholesaler of food packaging and janitorial and sanitation products.