CHOICE membership

Weights on Packaging


#1

The government has revealed who it is worried about. Importers’ profits. Not us and not Aussie producers.

The federal government argues the proposal will reduce business costs because weight labels would no longer need to be affixed to imported products that don’t contain weight information on their packaging.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/37971588/brands-sneaky-plan-to-make-aussie-shoppers-pay-more-for-less/

The arrogance of this quote is breath taking.

Industry and business groups claim the new proposal would benefit consumers as well as businesses and that there were no transparency issues associated with removing the product weight labelling.

“In simple terms, a strong measurement framework protects businesses and consumers by ensuring we all get what we pay for at the cash register,” Assistant Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Craig Laundy said at the policy proposal announcement on Tuesday.

BTW, I noticed my 1kg bag of McCains frozen chips is 900g these days, weight clearly labelled on the front, same old price to comfort me. :frowning:


#2

I find the article in the link inadequate. The statement by the Minister that is the source of the quote repeated by TheBBG

says nothing about labelling.

If 7 News is referring to some ambit claim from industry to try to move policy where is that claim? If there is no such claim where did 7 News get the idea?

The banner refers to …“brands sneaky plan”. What brands? Where is this plan?

Mr Godfey from Choice is quoted. What is he commenting on?

This is click-bait not journalism. Until something more substantial appears I would forget about it.


#3

The point of the discussion is the first line of the item I linked, The government appears to be dodging and weaving.

The federal government is considering a policy that allows manufacturers to remove the weight measurement from the front of an item’s packaging,

Choice had a consumer advocacy campaign about this last June.


#4

Hi @syncretic, I appreciate your suspicion. It’s getting more challenging to recognise what is what in the current media climate. I’ve got some research that I think will clear a few things up on the issue. Here is the Minister’s statement that I believe is most relevant (although if someone has a more recent one please post it).

http://minister.industry.gov.au/ministers/laundy/media-releases/government-looks-review-measurement-labelling-laws

We know the industry is planning to remove requirements for weights to be on the front pack because the 2015 consultation process was public. You can see a statement from Unilever here:
https://consult.industry.gov.au/packaging-review-team/national-trade-measurement-regulations-2009/consultation/view_respondent?uuId=78058448

For the record, here is the CHOICE submission strongly disagreeing with Unilever’s position:
https://consult.industry.gov.au/packaging-review-team/national-trade-measurement-regulations-2009/consultation/view_respondent?uuId=1039729306

We believe removing weights from the front of labels will make it harder to know how much product is in a particular container, which will end up costing consumers more. Here’s a recent example:

We’re also running an ongoing campaign to try to prevent these changes occurring, so if any readers would like to support us, please sign the petition.


#5

If you read the stated aims of the review the thing that stands out the most is that the Govt wants the Act to reflect the “policy” of the Govt…not the Law but the policy. This allows broad changes to occur to the operation of the Act because a Govt changes it’s mind on a process or a procedure without the need for it to be debated in Parliament and thus no oversight. Very dangerous ground when a Govt could alter the way the Act works based on lobbyists efforts rather than what is best practice.


#6

Signed the petition and commend it to others to rally behind Choice and sign it. Don’t let the Govt subvert what should help you and turn it into something that removes your protections.


#7

Thank you for that. Now I know what is going on, which I didn’t after reading the article about the vague and unattributed “sneaky proposal”.


#8

There is also potential for this to happen as well…

Packaging to appear far bigger than the contents to give an impression more is contained within.

At least with good labelling, deception is more difficult.


#9

Hi, I agree that the weight or volume should remain on the front of the pack. However many people are basically lazy and don’t look beyond the glossy packaging. For similar products buy by unit pricing. Sometimes it helps to make a game of it if you have literate children with you who can make a point of looking at the unit pricing although this can sometimes get a bit drawn out if there are many similar items. The marketing relies upon time poor people who rush in and grab the most attractive items.


#10

Interesting observations @gtillett, I think many will agree with you. I find it difficult enough even with the current labels, especially in smaller supermarkets where unit pricing is not required.


#11

What annoys me is when similar products have different units of measurement. I was shopping for maple syrup and one brand was priced $1.18 per 100ml and the next one $0.85 per 100g. How the hell are you supposed to compare these? By the size of the bottle I guess!


#12

Can someone check out the added water to frozen products and those sneaky meat trays. Also toothpaste! When did toothpaste go from paste to barely whipped cream consistency?


#13

Thanks for the request @aidapottinger, I’ll be sure to flag it with our content team.


#14

I contacted Choice in September 2016 whilst trying to find out who to contact regarding products which were actually less than their stated weight.
I ended up giving my query away as a lost cause.
A copy of the communications is posted below.

“Hi,
In the absence of any response since 19.09.2016, I assume that you will not be providing any suggestions as to who i should contact regarding this matter.
Kindly advise if this is not the case.
Best regards,

From: CHOICE Customer Service
Sent: Monday, September 19, 2016 11:34 AM
To:
Subject: Re: CHOICE contact us form
Dear Peter
Thank you for contacting CHOICE regarding
Pepe’s Ducks.
At CHOICE we are always interested to hear from our members and consumers about their experiences, concerns and views on a range of topics. This enables us to stay alert to your concerns and the possibility of investigating and publishing something on this topic.

We have logged the details of your email in our database that is reviewed by our Editorial team. They will respond to you if they are able to use or investigate this material further.

Need assistance? Our friendly Customer Service team can help you. Simply email ausconsumer@choice.com.au or call on 1800 069 552 or 02 9577 3399 Monday-Friday 9:00am-5:00pm AEST.

Thank you for taking time to contact CHOICE.
Kind Regards
Gianna
Customer Service Representative

57 Carrington Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204, Australia
P: 02 9577 3399 F: 02 9577 3355 E: ausconsumer@choice.com.au W: www.choice.com.au
A not-for-profit company limited by guarantee | ACN 000 281 925

On 19 September 2016 < > wrote:
General
I purchased 2 Pepe’s Ducks early this month from Woolworths at Stockland in Cairns. They were labelled as 1.8 Kg minimum net weight. While preparing them to cook on Father’s Day, I weighed the one I had unpacked which was only 1.702 Kg. The other one which was still in the packaging weighed 1.855 Kg. I unpacked it to find one wing had been cut through. I brought the underweight duck to the attention of an employee at the “Customer Service” counter at the store I had purchased it at. Her response was that she had no idea about what do and suggested that I contact the supplier. I purchased another 2 ducks whilst the special lasted and weighed both of them after unpacking them and before cooking them yesterday. One weighed 1.684 Kg and also had a wing cut through. The other one still had some innards and faeces left inside the cavity, and after removing it, it weighed 1.704 Kg. The rubbish including the fat I removed from the second 2 ducks weighed only 60 grams including the plastic bag I put it in so it cannot possibly account for the weight difference. I did not see any liquid leak out of the packaging whilst they were thawing out and there was no liquid inside the packaging or the cavities when I unpacked them. I have photo of all 4 ducks on plates on my kitchen scales which clearly show their weights as well as the bag of rubbish. Who should I lodge a complaint with? Woolworths. Pepe’s Ducks Ltd, consumer affairs or whoever is responsible for correct weights, or all of them?


#15

http://www.measurement.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx

And their complaints lodgement webpage:

http://www.measurement.gov.au/TradeMeasurement/Pages/EnquiriesandComplaints.aspx

It is possibly too late now as I would expect that they wouldn’t respond unless one still had the evidence. I assume the cooked duck tasted great.

Meat can also be tricky as it will tend to keep losing fluid when it is stored. Look at the fluid in some of the prepared fresh meat trays atthe local butcher/supermarket. Fuilds from the meat is often found in the bottom of the container. It could be possible that the packed weight was 1.8kg, but after fluid loss, this dropped.

My understanding of weights and measures is it is the weight on packing…not necessarily the weight after storage.

If the duck bag was sealed, one would need to weigh the duck+bag, remove the contents and wash the bag, let the bag fully dry and then measure the bag by itself. This will give a indication of the weight of the duck when it was packaged. If it was in an unsealed bag (one that could leak), it would be near imposible to determine the weight on packing.


#16

They must be at least 1.8 kg in net weight on sale, when we packed bananas we had to ensure we packed more weight than the amount labelled on the boxes to ensure that any loss of weight did not take the contents below that label. That means for any product sold with a minimum net weight it must be at or above that weight to comply. Addition of fluid in a can while unethical is used to reduce the amount of product used but still complies with the net weight stated. That is why on cans or similar products it is useful to know what % of product is actually in the container. As for the ducks they failed to achieve the stated minimum weight and so were in breach of the legislation.

From the National Measurement Institute in regards to these types of items:

"Pre-packed Articles with Differing Measurements

These articles are known as random-weight or catch-weight articles. It is not possible to undertake a sample because while they are the same kind of product, the measurement differs. It is not meaningful to calculate an ‘average’ measurement.

The measurement of any such article – whether it is expressed as weight, volume, number, area or length – must not be less than the measurement stated on the package label. The legislation does not allow for any deficiency in even a single package’s contents.

The legislation does not allow a deficiency for ‘desiccating’ goods, other than those identified that might dry out and lose weight. If the article is likely to lose weight over time through evaporation, dehydration or other means, the packer must make allowances for any expected losses in the measurement when packaging the product for the entirety of its shelf life.

All goods pre-packed for sale must be marked with the net measurement (i.e. the weight of the contents without the packaging material)."

In regards to the underweight items the following is required by the legislation:

"What to do with Shortfall Packages

Sometimes compliance sampling might indicate that packages have a shortfall, i.e. the measurement of the package is less than that stated on the label. Remedial actions must be taken if:

  • a single package deficiency exceeds the permissible tolerance and/or
  • the average (or the weighted average in the context of AQS) measurements of sample packages is less than the nominal measurement marking.

In either case you will need to:

  • identify the faulty packages
  • remove them from your distribution channel, and place them in quarantine
  • clearly mark the packages to prevent their inadvertent release
  • report the details to senior management
  • implement appropriate preventative measures.

Note: Even if non-compliant packages are sold at a substantial discount (or even given away) you still have to ensure that the correct measurement is marked on the package and that you comply with the trade measurement laws.

Identify the Causes and Take Remedial Action

  • Review processes and procedures including the efficiency and accuracy of process sampling.
  • Identify and adjust any faulty equipment or process. If this is not possible, tag out equipment identified as faulty.
  • Consider operator retraining or closer supervision if that seems appropriate.

Sort Quarantined Packages

  • Identify the packages which are excessively deficient and remove them.
  • Consider removing packages with permissible deficiencies in order to improve sample average to equal or exceed the nominal marked measurement. Recheck a sample of this revised batch of packages to ensure that it now complies with the marked measurement.

Re-labelling Packages

  • Re-labelling to a lesser marked measurement must be consistent with the trade measurement laws. However before re-labelling, consider whether this may cause marketing problems. Discuss this with your retailer. Buyers may expect a constant nominal quantity for particular-sized containers even though the laws may not require it.
  • A person who re-labels a package with a revised measurement marking is responsible for the accuracy of that measurement marking. The action of re-labelling with a revised measurement marking may also require the person to identify themselves as the packer. Hence, they would have to include their name and address on the package.

Repacking and Topping Up

  • Identify those individual packages which have failed due to excessive deficiency and repack or top them up.
  • Apply the same procedure to packages with permissible deficiencies which are causing a failure of the average, in sufficient numbers to bring about a sample average that equals or exceeds the nominal marked measurement.
  • Re-check a sample of this revised batch of packages to ensure that it now complies with the marked measurement.
  • Consider other remedial actions if these procedures are uneconomic or impractical."

The requirements are quite stringent and are clearly detailed and the staff at the Supermarket also failed in their obligations:

"Sellers should insist that their suppliers – both packers and importers – are aware of the requirements of the national trade measurement laws and can demonstrate that they comply with the laws and have in place quality control systems. They should have in place their own quality control system to monitor and verify compliance of the goods they sell.

While the method of checking the measurement of packages and recording the results of process and compliance sampling is not prescribed by law, the more extensive the checks and records, the more packers/importers/sellers can prove that they did everything in their power to ensure the correct measurement of the packages. The extent of these checks depends on each set of circumstances. "


#17

It would be interesting if the loss of fluid from stored meat falls into this category or not. It isn’t additional fluid to make up weight (which woukd be a problem under the legislation), but fluid emanating from the product…and could be considered part of the product. I suppose it is a little like the whey coming out n of natural set yoghurt…this whey could be a significant part of the total volume and would be classed as part of the yoghurt rather than dessication/loss of moisture from the white stuff.

The juices would be fluids from the meat/duck. If fhe bag was sealed (which I assume it would be like most whole poultry bags), the fluid may need to also weighed with the duck as it could be argued that it is duck (a bit like the yoghurt whey or juice in fruit). If the bag was not sealed and the fluid did disappear from the packaging, then one could argue that the duck’s weight was under when bought.

Food for thought.


#18

You have fingered a time honoured (!!) technique called ‘plumping’. It is most common in poultry.

I made a few complaints over the years about ridiculous amounts of ‘free water’ in the meat as well as poultry trays to no avail. You might notice a lot of the meat trays from grocers have soak pads that are often truly soaked :frowning:

The conundrum is government usually sides with business, and that focus is currently in the news re both sides looking to be ‘more business friendly’, and plumping improves profits by adding water weight sold as meat weight to each sale and how much more friendly can one get to the butchers?


#19

It has occurred in the US in the past, but my understanding of speaking to those in the Australian Poultry industry is it doesn’t occur here. Some chefs use the technique in their restaurants to make the meat moister and to tenderise it.

The US also do a chlorine wash of fresh chicken meat…such is banned in the EU and it is also my understanding that it doesn’t occur in Australia… however many blog/vested interest websites claim it does occur…along with the rampant use of growth hormones (which is also a myth for poultry grown in Australia). It is interesting to see that this myth has not stopped some advertising that their poultry is hormone free.

Chlorine treatment is used to treat potential salmonella contamination…in Australia we have been educated to cook meat thoroughly assuming that the meat has been contaminated with salmonella as our chicken does not experience the same treatment as in other countries, such as the US.

Chicken meat naturally contains a high moisture content and will release fluids, like any other fresh meat, slowly after slaughter (see link in previous post to why). Chicken meat in particular, has a high tendency to release fluids. If the meat is procesed and packaged immediately after slaughter (rather than say hung), the amount of fluid released can be significant. The process of hanging to allow meat to age allows much of the fluid after slaughter to drain, resulting isn less fluid generation after packaging.


#20

That could be the case, but I have purchased more than one tray of poultry/meat that was literally swimming there was so much ‘value added’ H2O based ‘product’. A few were so bad I lodged formal complaints but the particular products still contain what I consider multiples of the necessary water to maintain the underlying product that is not H2O. It was well beyond what I would consider ‘drainage’.