Food accessibility nightmares


The last time I tried to open the cap on a plastic juice bottle I went through a knife, a scissors, and finally a razor blade to separate the cap with that little ring that’s designed to “break away” so you can twist it off. I ended up with the start of blisters on my fingers and thank God I didn’t slice my thumb right off!

My hand and arm strength has been very stable the last few years which leads me to believe that food packaging has become even more difficult, and in some cases a big mess to open. When I encounter this problem I usually take a moment to email the company and over time I’ve sent more than a few of those. Why is some food MORE difficult to open than a prescription pill bottle?

Here are a few of my favorite (read “most annoying”) food packaging struggles:

1. That break-away ring on bottle caps that I mentioned already

Sometimes these seem to break away very easily and other times you’ll start to turn the cap and it will screetch to a halt. At that point it seems like I’m just stretching those little plastic nodules instead of breaking anything. This has happened to me enough to know that if there’s another bottle in my fridge, I am better off moving on or risk dying of thirst.

2. Secret hidden sealed covers on the top of jars that you get to after you finally opened the lid

So I’m excited to open up my new jar of peanut butter and I finally twist the lid off to discover yet another layer to break through below. It’s usually silver and whoever designed it must have been trying to break the world record for smallest pull-off tab ever. (I actually think that little tiny tab is more a remnant of the manufacturing process than an actual tab). It’s impossible to pull off with your fingers. Sometimes I find it goes better with my front teeth. But usually you end up having to jam a knife through it and then peel it off with your peanutbuttery fingers.

3. Super sealed chip and cereal bags

It seems like the smaller the bag, the more difficult it is to open. The glue they use to seal these bags has gotten much stronger over the years. There’s nothing worse than struggling with a bag of chips, finally getting it open, then realizing you crushed every chip in the bag trying to get at the food. If they’re going to make these bags impossible to open then at least make them self-closing so we can seal in freshness after the bag is finally opened.

4. Pop-top cans of soup

The pop-top cans of soup seem convenient, but if you count the time it takes to clean up the soup explosion that happens when you finally overcome the force needed to actually start pulling the top off, it’s no better than breaking out the can opener. In fact, I have started using a can opener on some of these pop-tops to avoid the mess.

5. Individual fruit cups

I have yet to open one of those mini-fruit packs without fruit juice spraying at me or all over the floor. They are so packed with fruit and juice that if you try to pull back the plastic off the top, it’s impossible not to spill. I have resorted to puncturing the top, sucking out the juice, and then opening it regularly. I have given up on trying to conquer this one.

6. Any kind of ketchup or salad dressing bottle with the hidden seal under the cover after you’ve already had to peel off an external plastic wrapper.

Do we really need THREE layers of protection on our new food containers? I am begrudgingly okay with two well-designed layers, but if you put a clear plastic wrapper around the top of your bottle, then hide another protective layer under the lid, that’s just going way too far. I can’t count how many times I’ve gone to squeeze the bottle after unwrapping the outer plastic layer only to be denied!

7. Bottled water that squirts you with water when you unscrew the cap.

This seems to happen to me on those environmentally friendly, thinner bottles more often than others. The force of twisting the cap off and the angle that I have to hold my hands usually creates enough pressure on the bottle to result in a big trickle of water immediately upon opening. Fine, make thinner bottles but don’t fill them all the way up to the very top!

I understand that many of these issues are the result of wanting to keep in freshness and ensure safety. I also know that people without arm/hand disabilities may not struggle as much as I do. But opening food packaging should not be a two-person (or one person and a tool) job for anyone!

If nothing else this has taught me that maybe I need to stop eating packaged food so much!

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2 Responses to Food accessibility nightmares

  1. Brad says:

    Dan those mini- fruit cup are so very hard to open! Sealed with super glue I guess! I gave up on one it was either open it an spill it all over yourself or just give up, I gave up! Mini-mouth wash bottles are another problem i can never get those caps off! Old school can openers really a pain to use I got this special hands free model problem solved! But I agree it is crazy how many seals are on things!

  2. Gord Wallen says:

    I hear you Dan. If it wasn’t for Pat I might starve to death. haha

    A couple of years ago we came upon the “can pull” at Lee Valley tool for 0nly $1.60. this handy device woulds on pop top soda cans and soup cans. If you can’t find one let me know and I’ll send one to you. Here’s a link to youtube so you can see how it works. Here’s the link to Lee Valley tools,40733,40734&ap=1

    Another nefty tool is a package opening tool available at all major retailers. Here’s a link to one called the Amazing Open X

    For the fruit cups and those inner liner with small tabs I use a pair of pliers!

    Have fun

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