Food Law News - UK - 2004

DTI Consultation Document, 30 March 2004

WEIGHT CONTROL - Consultation on proposed changes to the Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 1986 SI 1986/2049

This DTI consultation seeks views on proposals to simplify existing weights and measures rules for packaged goods. The main proposal is the revision of the Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 1986 so that they are simpler and easier to understand. The Government also invites views on plans to reform part of the primary weights and measures law, the Weights and Measures Act 1985, where this imposes relevant duties on packers and importers. This consultation deals with the principles of the proposed simplification of the law; a later consultation will seek views on draft regulations, taking account of stakeholders' responses.

The Executive Summary is given below. The full consultation document can be found at:

Deadline for responses: 30 June 2004


This consultation paper seeks views on the Government's proposals to reform the legislation governing average quantity control for packaged goods.

Legislation on these matters remains necessary to ensure that consumers can rely on the accuracy of quantity indications and are protected against unlawful short measure, whilst recognising that automatic packing lines can give rise to small fluctuations in the quantity contained in any individual package. But the existing Regulations have for some time been recognised as unnecessarily complicated and burdensome for packers and importers. The proposals aim to make the law in this area simpler and easier to understand for all those involved, and will remove unnecessary burdens from packers and importers.

The key proposals are to:

Revised Regulations must of course continue to secure compliance with the relevant European Directives, Directives 76/211/EEC and 75/106/EEC. These require Member States to ensure that e-marked packages comply with the average system and require them to permit free access to market, without further metrological control, for e-marked packages originating from other Member States.

The implementation of these directives in UK law, in Part V of the Weights and Measures Act 1985 and the Packaged Goods Regulations, goes further than required by the directives by extending the average system to all packaged goods (including goods outside the scope of the directive - i.e. those larger than 10 kg or 10 L, or certain products (such as unwrapped bread) which do not fall within the directive's definition of prepackages. Packages which do not fall within the remit of the average system are subject to the "minimum system" provisions of Part IV of the Weights and Measures Act 1985.

The proposals will affect packers and importers of goods that are packed in production runs where all the packages are intended to contain the same quantity of product, which is determined by the packer in advance.

The proposals will also affect the local weights and measures authorities that have a duty to enforce the legislation. They will continue to be responsible for enforcement of the Regulations.

Consumers or retailers of packaged goods will not be directly affected by the proposals. The proposed new Regulations will maintain existing levels of protection for consumers against short measure and will continue to ensure that consumers can rely on quantity indications being accurate, within permitted negative tolerances, to facilitate price and weight or volume comparisons between and across brands.

The main benefit of the proposals should be reduced barriers to entry for packers new to the market. But it is also expected that compliance costs will be reduced for packers and importers of packaged goods. The overall impact of the proposals on enforcement costs is expected to be neutral.

Views are invited on all aspects of the proposals set out in this consultation paper, and a number of specific questions are set out in Section 3. The Department will also welcome views on when the new legislation resulting from this consultation or from a related consultation, to be published by summer 2004, on consolidation of Food Orders under the Act should be implemented.

The Regulations will apply throughout England, Wales and Scotland. The reforms will not affect Northern Ireland, which has its own separate weights and measures legislation.

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