Tamper-evident or tamper-proof labels with systems in place for consumer peace of mind.

Complete Guide to Tamper-Evident and Tamper-Proof Labels

No one wants to buy a product that has been opened or had some of its contents removed, which makes tamper protection important to consumers. However, tamper prevention doesn’t just protect users from direct changes to the products they buy. 

In 2020, Customs and Border Patrol confiscated $1.3 billion in counterfeit goods, so safety seals can play a key role in creating an unbroken tie between the manufacturer and the buyer, assuring customers that the products they’re buying are genuine and safe. But, how do these labels work, and how can you use them in a way that protects your customers?

What’s the Difference Between Tamper-Proof and Tamper-Evident Labels?

If the label is designed to be tamper evident, it tears easily. Once the label is torn or removed, the damage is obvious. This helps users identify containers that have been opened. It also prevents genuine product labels from being transferred to counterfeit products or price tags from being moved from cheap items to expensive ones. This is important for protecting luxury goods, reducing in-store theft, and ensuring medicine is genuine.

If the label is designed to be tamper proof, by comparison, it makes it harder to get into the package (this includes security seals and sticker labels that wrap over container lids and box openings). Tamper-proof labels make the container harder to open, so that would-be thieves theoretically leave the product alone.

Some labels are both tamper-proof and tamper-evident, and there are designs that integrate other safety and quality features into them, as well. For example, holographs are hard to duplicate accurately, so they’re commonly used to identify genuine pharmaceuticals. By making the holograph part of a destructible label, it can’t be moved over to a counterfeit product.

How Do Tamper-Evident Labels Work?

Tamper-evident labels feature three design strategies to change their appearance when they’re damaged.

Hidden Print Layers:

These types of tamper-evident labels have multiple printed layers. The bottom layer uses a strong adhesive, and the top layer uses a weak adhesive. When the label is torn, only the top layer is removed, revealing the print underneath. Typical printing includes statements like “VOID,” “OPENED” or “TAMPER EVIDENT” printed multiple times across the inner label. Contrasting colors are often used to draw attention to the damaged label. 

Security Cuts and Perforations:

Die cuts and perforations used on the label keep them from being removed in one piece. The peeled-up sections left behind are easy for users to notice and prevent labels from being removed and placed on other products.

Detailed Printing:

While it may be easy to realign most labels after opening a container, it can be difficult if there’s fine printing around the area. The misalignment of text, graphics, and barcodes helps draw the user’s eye to the tear so that they know the container was opened.

How Do Tamper-Proof Labels Work?

Tamper-proof label design is built around not being easily removable and making the container harder to open. By their very nature, these labels are also tamper evident, since the label must be destroyed to get access to what’s inside.

The simplest design is a frangible label. This uses a thin strip that extends from the bottle to the lid with space in between. This strip must be torn before the lid is removed. By varying the materials and width of the strip, these can be made so they require scissors to cut, or they can tear as the lid is turned. It’s all but impossible to hide the tear, so it also leaves evidence of tampering.

Wrap labels typically extend over lids or around box edges. (You’ve probably seen this before on salad dressing bottles.) Unless you tear the top label off, there’s no way to open the cap.

Where Are These Labels Used?

A common use of tamper-proof labels is on medicine bottles because tamper-proofing techniques protect individuals using those medicines and it’s required by the FDA. The agency’s requirements for tamper-resistant labels and packaging for over-the-counter drugs are covered in Compliance Policy Guide (CPG) 450.500. There are several ways to meet these requirements, including tamper-evident seals around lids and box openings.

While counterfeit luxury goods aren’t as dangerous as counterfeit medicines, they represent 60 to 70% of the world counterfeit goods market. Here, the main focus is on helping buyers identify authentic goods. Individualized QR codes and blockchain-based tracking benefit from the use of destructible labels. This keeps labeling and packaging on genuine products from being removed and reused on fake goods.

Food services and food delivery have adapted tamper-evident labels for take-out to prove food safety upon arrival, and the cannabis industry is looking into these approaches, as they face widespread manufacturing of counterfeit new products in the wake of lax regulation. This problem extends to both direct copies of goods, as well as falsified lab tests and authentication. Packaging is seen as key in establishing a clear connection between the customer and the manufacturer, so they can be sure they’re buying genuine, safe products. This requires both the protection of the contents, as well as destruction of identifiers that prove the item is genuine.

How Do I Get Custom Labels Onto My Products?

Most security labels use pressure sensitive adhesives. Even though the adhesive won’t release from the container, it will release from the label backing. That means you can use a standard label application machine with both tamper-evident and tamper-proof labels: it’s just a matter of finding a machine that applies the label in the correct location.

For example, our Vertical Trunnion Roller Bottle Labeling Machine can be set up to add several types of labels to your bottles, including tamper-resistant neck labels. With the right configuration, you can use a single machine to add wrap or front/back labels along with your security labels.

Want to add security labels to your boxes? Our Front/Back/Wrap Labeling System can apply labels to multiple locations on boxes, including over seams and around corners. This makes it possible to apply tamper-evident labels to any opening. This labeling system can use either our 360a or 3600a-PA label applicator as its base, which gives you a choice of direct application or print-and-apply application to add expiration dates, serial numbers, and other container-specific information. Print-and-apply is also great for adding QR codes and other tracking information so that buyers can verify the authenticity of products.

Get the Flexibility You Need from Your Labeling System

Do you need to add tamper-proof labels or tamper-evident labels to your products? Do you want a system that can handle multiple labels and multiple products? CTM Labeling Systems can help. Contact us to find a labeling solution that addresses your needs, including safety, security, and accuracy. Our dedication to customer support, flexibility and integration is unmatched and we have built a reputation based on good design, local manufacturing and overall excellence.