US – Procter & Gamble (P&G) is changing the design of its Tide Pods packaging to make it child-proof, after 250 children in the US fell ill after mistaking the detergent for candy.
P&G, Purex and other detergent manufacturers launched different versions of the packets in the US earlier this year. Each lightweight, colourfully swirled plastic packet contains a single-use amount of detergent that looks like ribbon candy and dissolves in water. The pods are intended to be dropped into laundry machines, replacing liquid or powder detergent.
Thinking that the bright candy-looking pods are edible, some children have swallowed them. So far this year, nearly 250 cases have been reported to poison control centers throughout the US.
While no deaths have been reported so far, the symptoms – such as nausea and breathing problems - that doctors see from laundry pods ingestion have been more severe as compared to ordinary detergent poisoning. Some reasons suggested by doctors include the packets carrying a full cup’s worth of detergent in bite-size form, or the detergent in the packet might activate more quickly or differently.
P&G spokesman Paul Fox said that the company plans to develop a new double latch lid on tubs of Tide Pods “in the next couple of weeks” to deter children from eating the pods.
The global FMCG company had initially defended the safety of its Tide Pod packaging, with Fox urging families to keep household cleaners and laundry detergents out of children’s reach to reduce the risk of poisoning: “The packs themselves are safe, regardless of who manufacturers them, provided that they are used for their intended purpose,” said Fox.
“The risk becomes when they’re left like any other household product within reach of small inquisitive hands.”
Purex, who produces similar detergent pods under its UltraPacks brand, says its packaging comes with warning labels to keep out of reach of children.
“This is a new form of laundry product and we will continue to join other manufacturers to safeguard and educate consumers on the correct storage and use of these products in the home,” said Purex’s vice president for marketing, Keim Ho, in a statement.
Detergent packets are a recent entry in the American market, although they are already common in Europe. According to P&G, Tide Pods has done well against other detergent packets, but declined to comment on whether these products would replace liquid and powder detergent, saying it is still too soon to tell.