CHOICE membership

Weights on Packaging

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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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

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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?

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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.

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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. "

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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’.

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Woolworths also sold an Italian brand of OO flour a few years ago which I believe was Il Molino which I used to buy to make pizza bases.
As I always weigh the flour and water to get the dough exact, I noticed that on a number of occasions that the unopened flour weighed 1,000 gm or even less inclusive of the packaging.
Why on earth would an Italian flour manufacturer who exports internationally need to cheat customers on their product contents?
As I no longer deal with Woolworths, I do not know if this is still occurring.

Don’t forget meat contains about 60-70% water.


The natural ‘value added water’ is most likely from the meat.

This US article may also answer some of your questions you may have:

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I should have taken photos. Imagine a tray that is about 10-20% deep in whatever. Is that a reasonable expectation?

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I possibly would say yes.

Chicken is processed/cut//deboned immediately after slaughter before the meat has had a chance to rest. It is then packaged, either in bulk bags or in individual retail packaging for sale. Unlike some other meats, it isn’t hung to allow fluid to drain before processing.

From my own anecdotal experiences…as a youngster, I was fortunate (or unfortunate :grimacing:) to work in a chicken fast food establishment (Big Rooster - the rotisserie and fried chicken type). The fresh chicken came in blue stackable crates, lined with plastic bags. From memory there were about 12 whole chickens per crate or 10-15kg of cut chicken pieces. The fresh whole chickens after a day or two produced about an 1/2inch (12mm) of fluid in the bottom of the bags, while the cut chickens would have about an inch of fluid. Sometimes we would have to wait for a new shipment to arrive fresh from the abattoir. These crates had little if no fluid. I remember this clearly as on a cold winter’s day, there was nothing like sticking ones hands into the fluid to recover chicken/chicken pieces when the fluid was at about 3-4°C.

I would expect that fresh chicken (and pieces) bought from a retailer would release similar volume of fluids.

If one wants to buy chicken which produces less fluid, maybe go to a retailer than has less turnover (or at the end of the day) when most some fluid has had the chance to be released from the meat, and buy from the loose deli section rather than prepacked containers?

I have also fixed the above link to the FSIS PDF.

If one buys frozen chicken and then thaws it, this information is relevant"

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It matters little how much the chicken/duck/beef/lamb/pig loses in water during storage at the producer or store. When it is sold to a consumer the net weight of the product must be at or above the minimum weight as labelled on the package. If 80g of water is expected to be lost the producer must ensure the meat has enough weight to address this loss and to be at or above the minimum weight for it’s entire shelf life.

Back to our bananas as an example. They are packed green without any treatment beyond a wash (and are touch dry before packing). The box must contain a minimum of 13 kg on sale to consumers. A box is packed to about 13.6kg (between 13.5 and 13.7kg) to account for transpiration losses, they lose roughly 500g during storage and ripening as fresh bananas. Any box underweight must be either repacked to weight or is discarded, and if found to be underweight at the ripeners they do throw underweight boxes out or repack them at cost to the producer (generally not worth the cost).

As I said above the ducks weights were in breach of the legislative requirements and the Store should have refunded the purchaser, and then removed the ducks from sale and informed senior management about the issue and ensured the remaining ducks met the required minimum weight and if they didn’t meet the weight they should have sought to return them to the producer or disposed of them or relabelled them with correct weights and resold at reduced pricing (most likely heavily discounted). The producer is also then required to inspect their machinery to ensure they are properly working, they have to ensure staff are properly trained and are sorting the ducks to ensure the weights comply with the requirements. This means the dry weight of the ducks needs to be at a suitable amount above 1.8kg each to take into account any loss of fluid did not make the ducks weight go below 1.8kg for the entire shelf life. If this means a duck needs to be 1.9kg or 2.0kg to comply that’s what they have to then select to pack them and sell as minimum net weight of 1.8kg. In these cases there is no allowance for deficiency in weights, it is straightforward and the steps needed are well spelt out.

As another example if you buy a bag of pre-packaged Apples that has a label of net weight of 1kg then the weight of apples without the packaging must be 1kg or more. If the apples weigh any amount less than the 1kg the seller has breached the legislation (even if it is less than a gram underweight), so most stores pack to about 50g overweight to ensure that 1kg net weight is met, some pack more to really ensure eg packing to 100g over the stated weight.

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Went to our local/usual butcher this morning and asked the question if they allow for fluid loss from their pre-packed products…most of the products are pre-packed. The answer was no.

The butcher indicated that they tare the package, then weigh the fresh meat…and then dispense a barcode/price label, then wrap in cling film. The weight is based on the weight of the product on packing and not how much of the ‘solid stuff’ is there then the customer buys it. This packaging then has a best-before date (BBD) added…ad can be sold until this best-before date (they rarely have products which each the BBD as they have high stock turnover.

They also said that some meats/cuts produce more fluid than others. The fellow we spoke to didn’t know how much would be produced, but guesses that it would be up to 10%. Many of the packs of meat in the butchery had minor quantities of fluid…guessing that it would have been less than 5% of the total weight of the product.

He also worked for a major supermarket before his current job and said this practice of packing (taring the package before packing) was standard practice.

He also said that if they had to allow say 10% extra meat to cover any fluid loss, this would eat considerably into their profits and would make their prices 10% higher, potentially affecting their competitiveness and business profitability.

He also commented that the fluid was from the meat and not added fluid, and as such it is believed part of the product.

Maybe for meat, the standard practice industry wide is different to say fresh fruit and vegetables.

If it is supposed to be the same (weight on purchase and not packaging), then it could be possible that the (whole?) meat retail industry currently is not doing the right thing. If it does change, it is likely the consumer would be hit with price hikes to cover any fluid/blood loss after packaging and before purchase.

After leaving, I realised that I hoped to ask what the butchery pays for…the contents weight or the meat solid weight (assuming there is fluid generation). Maybe next time if I remember.

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I can only point you to the relevant section which states for these items “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”. Whether your butcher does or does not comply is of little impact to the legislation, it is a random weight product ie it is a product that is of the same type eg Rump Steak but each piece has a random weight when cut or packed. They must take into account loss UNLESS it is a type that is allowed for desiccation (these are soap and mushrooms as per Division 4.6 of the Act).

But if we take the argument that some loss is allowed then the Act states in those cases where deficiency is allowed, the deficiency allowed is 1.5% of the weight between 1,000 grams and 10, 000 grams so for the duck the maximum permissible loss is 1,800 grams X 1.5% = 27 grams a figure far less than the substantial loss in the ducks. But as these are random weight prepackaged items and they state a minimum net weight they are in breach regardless.

Fish are particularly mentioned in the Act if they are frozen with visible ice…they must be weighed in a sieve after the ice has been melted off in a container of water at a temperature of 25ºC ± 5ºC and then drained at an angle of “about 20 from the horizontal for at least 2 minutes but not more than 2 minutes 15 seconds to allow water to drain from the fish; and
(e) if practicable, remove excess water from the fish by using a cloth or a paper towel” (I think this is to stop the old practice of selling ice as fish :slight_smile: )

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I suppose it could be argued that the fluid hasn’t been lost and the fluid loss is not desiccating in the true sense of the word…like in water desiccating from product. The fluid is still there in the packaging and hasn’t ‘disappeared’. It is possibly more of a byproduct of storage.

The fish example is possibly also different as the ice is possibly added…either through direct addition of ice to rapidly chill the fish or from ‘frosting’ from the freezing atmosphere (condensation freezing on the surface of the fish. Fish also will continue to ‘leak’ fluids with storage so I would expect that after the weight is measured under the Act, more fluid could be potentially lost through storage.

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