New guidance document for laundry detergent packaging labels

By | March 16, 2014

When consumer products giant P&G launched its Tide Pods, which is a detergent, stain fighter, and brightener all in one packaging, it was met with much fanfare. In fact, the Tide Pods experienced first-year sales of $500 million. However, what the Tide Pods offered in convenience, it also provided confusion to children as the containers resembled a candy jar. In May 2012, poison centers first alerted the public about children five and younger becoming very ill after exposure to single-load laundry packets sold by several manufacturers, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. In fact, in 2013 poison centers managed more than 5,000 cases of children five and younger exposed to laundry packets of various brands.

Original packaging for Tide Pods.

So in July 2013, P&G announced it had redesigned the packaging of its Tide Pods product. The product’s packaging for both the tub and bag containers transitioned to an opaque one.

The Tide Pods story is just one example of children’s confusion over liquid laundry packets. As such, The American Cleaning Institute (ACI) just released a voluntary guidance document for the labeling and packaging of liquid laundry detergent packets to help reduce the number of children exposed to these products, which are now used by millions of consumers.

The packaging redesign for Tide Pods.

ACI says the main goal of the document is to provide guidance on best practices for the household laundry products industry in the labeling, packaging and design of liquid laundry packets.

“These recommendations are a part of ACI’s ongoing efforts to help reduce the number of accidental child exposures to the contents of highly concentrated liquid laundry detergent packets,” said Nancy Bock, ACI senior VP of education. “This guidance is a priority for ACI to make sure that consumer safety information is clear, accessible and effective.”

The Voluntary Guidance has already been shared with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In 2013, ACI and a group of liquid laundry detergent packet manufacturers launched a multi-year consumer laundry safety program to educate consumers about safe storage and handling of liquid laundry packets. In consultation with the CPSC, consumer groups, manufacturers, and retailers, ACI has distributed safety alert information to consumers, poison control centers, pediatricians and other medical professionals, educators and social service providers.

For example, one of the recommendations is to “reduce the visibility of liquid laundry detergent packets via obscure or opaque packaging or any equivalent measure.” Another is to “make access to liquid laundry detergent packets difficult by a package closure design which discourages, delays, or otherwise impedes the ability of young children to open the package, and does not discourage the intended behavior of securing the package.”

The complete ACI’s Voluntary Guidance Document can be found online at cleaninginstitute.org/assets/1/Page/ACIVoluntaryGuidance.pdf.