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food shelves
pair of scissors
child proof
can opener
Modern Packaging (if You Ain't Broken, You Soon Will Be)
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Modern Packaging (if you ain\'t broken, you soon will be)

Do you remember the old days when you bought a can or bottle or carton of something and to consume it, all you had to do was either: pull out your can-opener or twist the top or at worst, reach for a pair of scissors. These days are gone unfortunately, due to a number of factors.

Terrorism in the shopping mall: Yes, this is partly the reason. Due to the attempts of the warped minds of some fundamentalists, like trying to poison us by injecting dangerous substances into the products on our Supermarket food shelves, the producers of the tins, jars, wrappings and other various containers of our “daily bread” i.e. the packaging companies, have had to go back to the drawing board.

Nanny State: The other cause of some of the more imaginative forms of what our food comes in is the rather over-cautious attitude to what constitutes as “safe”. It seems to me that the packaging firms no longer have the customer first and foremost in mind when it comes to convenience. More of this a bit later.

Easy To Open: This phrase is the one that really infuriates me. This claims, presumably, that you don’t have to use any form of kitchen tool to gain access to your edible product and nine times out of ten this is pure fiction. Oh, the times I’ve had to resort to scissors, sharp knives, pliers, rest of tool-kit just to allow the possibility of frying a few rashers of bacon, which leads me to…

Alien Material: This of course is why the famous Roswell Incident of 1947 was a cover up. Having discovered an indestructible substance that was capable of withstanding interstellar space at speeds much faster than that of light, the authorities whispered:

“This stuff looks useful, best we keep it under wraps for the time being…”

And under wraps is where we find most of our consumable goods is; within indestructible and at times positively lethally sharp plastic (vacuum packing).

The Child-Proof Cap: This is a laugh. No, really. These confounded contraptions that we find on the tops of most forms of bottled liquid nowadays, ranging from medicines to methylated spirits that are supposed to prevent the accidental consumption by our beloved infants.

However, after struggling for an hour or so of pulling and twisting, pushing and twisting, twisting and pushing, steaming and fuming, turning and purpling, pwishing and twaddling we, in total frustration, seek the advice of the nearest three-year-old for assistance. Before I leave the subject of the nanny state, let us turn to the matter of…

Consume By Dates: I refer here to those unreadable, usually untraceable and largely un-need-able stamps that have been appearing on various products for how long? Dunno. Okay, I suppose it’s handy for shoppers to know when their sausages are going to make the fridge smell a bit and maybe should have been eaten a couple of days back but, well, we are, most of us blessed with a part of our anatomy called the nose which, by divine design, seems pretty efficient with regards to whether certain goods are beyond their best before date (is this English?; I’m getting lost here).

It gets worse: They even put these consume by dates on tinned foods and in particular sardines which, as we all know, can be preserved for decades and still be perfectly edible.

Tea Bags: In England, where they take their tea seriously, you can buy giant boxes of good quality loose tea bags for what a couple of pounds? Here in France, where I live, you can buy tea in boxes of sachets but here’s the rub: they come in individual cellophane packets and attached to the contents, invariably, are bits of string with a label to remind you what is printed on the box and these are usually held together by a metal staple.

I ask you! It’s a nightmare for us composters. What’s more, they cost an arm and a leg (probably due to the elaborate packaging) and taste something like the sweepings from a carpenter’s workshop floor i.e. dish-water.

(My girlfriend decided to aid my plight by taking all these sachets out of their cellophane packets and returning them to their box, ergo when trying to pick an individual bag out, I find it’s tangled itself with the rest of the contents of the box and out comes a long string of the bloody things – think again mon chérie)

Anti-theft Devices: Although supermarket chains have theft of items incorporated into their profit margins, just to make sure they have come up with a staggering range of ways of hanging onto those profits. CDs, bottles of spirits or liquor, items of clothing, vastly over-priced razor blades, whatever.

They now come with attachments, those elaborate gadgets that, I imagine will, if you try to secrete them through the checkout, call security, police, army, close supermarket doors, close airports whilst alerting in-store cameras in an instant. I firmly believe it would be easier to walk off with the cash register tucked under my arm than an unpaid-for bottle of whiskey. Hmmm… there’s a thought.

Cardboard Cut-outs: It’s amazing what they can do now to a flat piece of cardboard with just a few folds, cuts and tucks that can emerge as a completely unfathomable closed box that takes some 30 minutes to get to inspect your latest, keenly awaited purchase from Amazon. Wonderful!

The Tetra Pak: These brick-like containers for milk, orange juice etc. have been around for some time now and have undergone quite a lot of innovations (more of that in a minute) but the basic design (see photo) remains the same and I defy anyone to open one of those with a pair of scissors, along the dotted line as indicated, without spilling milk everywhere; I always perform this delicate operation over the sink, needless to say. It’s the old folks I feel for and I’m no spring chicken.

Innovation: As just mentioned, Tetra Pak have been through some interesting quirks over the years but I bring you now to one of the latest. Just recently, the French have been able to buy their pasteurised milk in quite reasonable Tetra Paks with a plastic screw stopper at the top.

Nothing new in that I hear you say except that this latest idea, and as far as I can tell is still in the early stages and not available elsewhere (yet), has a remarkable and novel system. I was so fascinated that I had to investigate with the aid of a surgical scalpel (on an empty carton, you understand).

The Two Way Screw: Nothing suggestive intended here. I’m going to try my best to describe this method. When you turn the plastic cap counter-clockwise to open, as per normal, this part engages with another part inside that, and because it has a reversed thread turns the other way. This has a semi-circle of teeth that cuts through the inner sealing skin thus making a circular hole in it. Having done its job it stays disengaged, unless of course someone like me comes along trying to figure it all out.

First prize goes to this ingenious if rather contrived design…for the time being, anyway.


Street Talk

Delightful article, Kim.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Thank you Georgia.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

I have always had my kids open the child proof bottles. They should be named adult proof.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

The same thought occured to me.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Hehehe... I buy tea bags all the time and it never occurred to me that I should remove the staple! I'm just going to put this all down to a good over reaction in the name of comedy. Got me smiling!

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Kim, Thanks for a good laugh! My niece's first communion and party was this weekend. I didn't even try to open the bottles I drank from -- I've learned better! Indeed, when I've got strong healthy kids around who love to open things, 'tis best to pass to them. Games for them! blessings, Cynthia

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

In fact, it's enough to drive one to distraction. Think of the ecological impact all this has and how it will resolve itself, if ever. It just goes on and on and on like Ariston. (Did anyone notice the bottle of Rescue Remedy in the shot?) I thought it appropriate.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
C. Hughes  

Don't get me started, last Christmas it was Gramps'(that's me) task to unwrap all of the unwrapped toys for the little ones. This was because I of course had a Leatherman containing a sharp knife and pliers. 3 hours later all the items were ready for play. Whew.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Hi C, yes, I rest my case:-) Thanks for reading.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
Joan S  

I got a kick out of your article because you hit on so many things that have me frustrated too. How do you like the plastic corks in wine bottles? Or better still screw tops on wine. I was taught never to trust a wine that you unscrew. And those expiration dates on milk cartons...two months ahead??? What do you do to make a bottle of milk last for 2 months? And everything is packaged in plastic. Can that be healthy? Excellent article. I loved it.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Hi Joan, well it depends largely on the wine. I tend to get my weekly supply of wine here by the five litre containers, which is quite exceptable but when I buy a bottle, I go for one with a cork. As for milk, although I try to drink fresh I've never come across a carton of UHT that has gone off, and never bother looking at the date. There you are! Thanks.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Thanks all. You might want to read my rants and raves about the French and their language on Ezine. It's called Good Moaning.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

If there's an article that I really enjoy it is the peed of rantings of frustration, one, I discover I'm not alone and two, the ludicrous child proofing attached to some items. I thought I was the only one who required the assistance of a three year old to open them and till now kept my mouth shut. Tee bags with staples, I've needed more help to remove the staple from my finger than anything else, and this thought to be safe? Good article I love it and it goes into my file of pi..ed off customer articles.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

I agree wholeheartedly. What a pain in the rear most packaging is today

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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