Most of us have been there and it’s not nice. In fact, it’s so common there’s a name for this modern affliction – wrap rage. And with wrap rage comes trouble – everything from total frustration right through to injuries and visits to casualty and, in some cases, malnutrition.
Packaging injuries cut deep
People’s battles with packaging can end in injury. While Australia doesn’t record injury statistics related to packaging, when the UK government conducted a study on the topic in 1997, the results were alarming.
The report estimated 67,000 people in the UK visit hospital casualty departments every year due to an accident involving food or drink packaging. And a further survey revealed only 35% of all packaging accidents are reported to hospital, with the remaining 65% being treated at home or by GPs. The experts CHOICE spoke to believe that similar statistics would be reflected here in Australia.
While packaging accessibility is an issue that can affect us all, it’s understood a large percentage of the accidents caused by packaging affects those affected by a disability and the elderly, who particularly have problems with reduced eyesight and hand strength.
Fergal Barry, partnerships manager of Arthritis Australia, which promotes accessible packaging, says this problem will continue to grow as our population ages. “There are about 6.4 million people with arthritis or a disability in Australia, seven million people are 50-plus and 1.7 million who have problems with their eyesight,” he says. “If you combine the over-50s with the number of people with arthritis or a disability, that means one in two people are facing some kind of restriction with opening packages.”
When it comes to packaged food, Barry sees more problems on the horizon. “With an ageing population and society changing, never before have so many people lived alone or not in a traditional family. As a result, more of us are eating at different times to each other, eating alone and eating pre-prepared meals and single-serve packages, which can be particularly hard to access.”
The growing popularity of single-serve portions also affects young consumers. Many schools have had to remind parents to send their kids to school only with packaged food their child can open easily, as some teachers report that some school lunches go uneaten simply because the child can’t get into them.
Wendy Favorito is a board member and consumer representative of Arthritis Australia, and has suffered from severe arthritis since she was a child. She says she struggles to open packaged goods every day, and without the help of her family life would be extremely difficult.
“Packaged food items are the worst. Ring pull cans, jars – not having that hand span to grip or the strength to break the seal are just some of the restrictions for me, and for many other people, especially older people.”
However, Favorito is positive about the initiatives taken by some companies who are working with Arthritis Australia. “Before I was involved in this project I hadn’t realised packaging was an issue for so many others and didn’t think it could be changed. What I see now is that it’s an issue that affects a lot of people and there are solutions.”