Milk bottles top the list of hard-to-open packaging, according to our recent survey of people with arthritis.

About a third of those who completed the survey said they struggled with the pull-tab seals on milk bottles, either because the tab wasn’t big enough or they had lost grip and strength in their hands.

Childproof lids that require a squeeze or push and turn action also caused problems for many, as did blister packs and pull tabs on cans.

Other forms of difficult packaging are:

  • packets with glued or hard to grip seals
  • products encased in hard plastic
  • foil wrapping
  • jars with tight lids.

Some of the responses included comments like:

“I find my nutcracker very effective on salad dressing bottles.”

“A teaspoon can be used to open jam jars.”

“I need to use pliers on tins with pull tabs.”

“Sometimes I’ve got to use a knife.”

People asked for easy-tear perforations and clearly marked instructions. They also said bigger pull tabs, less glue, and more screw top lids would be helpful. Some identified specific tools they use to open packaging, such as jar keys, electric can openers, non-slip mats, or nutcrackers. More than 60 percent had someone at home who helped them open packaging.

A total of 204 people responded to the survey. They noted a wide range of products (214 unique items) that were difficult to open and 50 that were easy to open. Full results of the survey can be viewed here.

Arthritis New Zealand is now working with the Packaging Council and packaging companies to address the issue of accessibility on behalf of people with arthritis.

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