Food Law News - UK - 2004

FSA News Item, 18 October 2004

WEIGHTS - Consultation on weights and measures for foods

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is seeking feedback on proposals to simplify weights and measures legislation relating to the sale of food, including alcoholic drinks.

The Weights and Measures Act 1985 requires most pre-packed food to indicate its net weight or volume, on the container. When sold other than pre-packed, food is required to be sold either by quantity or, in certain circumstances, the seller has to make the quantity known to the customer.

The DTI consultation proposes to consolidate the eight existing UK Statutory Instruments on quantity indications into a single Order, and to simplify them by modelling the requirement more closely on the relevant Directives. The closing date for responses to this consultation is 4 January 2005.

Although the Food Standards Agency is responsible for most areas of food labelling, the DTI is responsible for policy on weights and measures, including weight and volume indications required on food.

The following is the Executive Summary of the consultation document. The full document is available at present at:


This document seeks the views of consultees on proposals for simplifying the weights and measures legislation that relates to sale of food including alcoholic drinks - in particular, the legislation on quantity indications, and on specified quantities (i.e., requirements that certain foods may be sold only in certain specific weights or volumes).

The main EC requirements in this area are contained in a single instrument, Directive 2000/13/EC, on the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs. However, the implementation of that Directive in UK law is spread over three Orders, which have been amended at various times by five further Orders. The Orders are also structured by reference to detailed lists of particular foods, in contrast to the more general approach of the Directive. There have from time to time been complaints from businesses and others affected about the complexity of the UK legislation. Some modification of the law is in any case necessary in order to reflect a recent decision by the European Court of Justice relating to specified quantities.

The Department therefore proposes to consolidate and simplify the current UK legal provision in this area. This would complement the Department's proposals published in March for the reform of the legislation for average quantity control of packaged goods (a copy of that consultation can be viewed here - [See also UK News item: 30 March 2004]

The Department's proposals have four main elements: (a) The eight existing UK Orders could be consolidated into a single Order which would also include the UK implementation of certain related EC requirements and update UK law in the light of a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the free movement of goods between Member States; (b) The provisions could also be simplified by modeling them on the general approach of the Directive rather than the present lists of specific foods; (c) There could be scope to remove UK requirements within the existing Orders which are not required by EC law, so long as these are no longer necessary for consumer protection; and (d) There is a specific deregulatory proposal relating to bread freshly baked in convenience stores and supermarkets.

These proposals would affect all packers and importers of food. They would also affect the local weights and measures authorities, who would continue to be responsible for enforcement. Consumers would not be affected by the consolidation and simplification exercise, but could be affected if any additional UK provision is removed.

The proposals apply to England, Wales and Scotland, but do not affect Northern Ireland, which has its own weights and measures legislation.

The main benefit of the proposals would be to make it easier for new entrants to understand the law and what is required of them. Established businesses would need to familiarise themselves with the new legal requirements, but thereafter should benefit from reduced compliance costs.

Views are invited on all aspects of the proposals set out in this paper, and on how the resulting legislation might best be implemented.

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