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Weights and measures for businesses

If I want to sell packaged goods in the UK, do I have to state the weight or volume of the contents on the package?

Yes. Most packaged goods that are made up within the range of 5g to 25kg or 5ml to 25 L have to state the weight or volume. However there are exceptions to this and we suggest you check your product against the Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 2006, or check with your local Trading Standards Department.

I want to sell packaged goods in the UK, is there a weights and measures system I have to comply with?

Yes, most packages in the UK are packed using the 'average' system, as set out in the Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 2006. Some products are still packed using the minimum system which mainly applies to catch weight or variable weight packages. The average system is used across the European Union, and indeed in most countries throughout the world. The average system aims to ensure that consumers can rely on the accuracy of quantity indications, thereby protecting them against unlawful short measure. It recognises that there is inherently some fluctuation in the automatic packing process and sets tolerances to allow for small fluctuations.

What do I have to do to comply with the average system?

Packages must be marked with the weight or volume of the contents and packers and importers must work to three rules:

1. The contents of the packages must not be less on average than the nominal quantity (i.e. that marked on the label)

2. As a guide not more than 1 package in 40 may contain less than the nominal quantities, by more than an amount known as the tolerable negative error. This varies according to the quantity stated on the package.

3. No packages are allowed to contain less than the nominal quantity by more than twice the tolerable negative error.

Read guidance on complying with the Regulations (PDF, 355 Kb) 

Does the average system cover all packages?

No. It applies to goods made up in packages to a predetermined constant quantity in units of weight or volume within the range of 5gm or 5 ml and 25kg or 25L and also to some other goods, such as unwrapped bread and knitting yarn, which are listed in the Weights and Measures (packaged goods) regulations 2006. For example, packs of cheddar cheese made up to a pre-determined nominal quantity of 250 g are included, but packs of the same cheese which are made up, weighed and marked with the weight they happen to contain (i.e. catch weights) are outside the average system, but must meet the minimum rules. Certain goods, such as small packages of biscuits, crisps and chocolate confectionery are exempted, as are goods used in processing and very small and very large packages.

How will the removal of specified quantities impact on my business?

It will be beneficial in that businesses will be free to pack in the size of their choice according to customer demand. There should be no direct costs to business and businesses may continue to pack in their existing sizes if they choose to do so.

What is a packer?

A packer is a person who places goods into packages. However, he or she may not necessarily be the person named on the package, or the person whose brand or trade mark appears on the label.

What is an importer?

The law defines an importer as the "person by whom or on whose behalf the package is entered for customs purpose on importation" If a person brings, for example, canned fruit into the UK, which they propose to sell through a wholesaler, he or she is the importer. If the same person brings cans into the country on behalf of a supermarket chain, then the supermarket chain is the importer. However, goods which have come from other EEC Member States and bear the EEC mark are not treated as imports for the purposes of the Weights and Measures (packaged goods) regulations 2006.

What is the E Mark (or EEC Mark)?

It is a small e, (at least 3mm), which acts as a metrological passport throughout the whole of the European Union and constitutes a guarantee by the packer or importer that packages have been made up in accordance with the average system. In order to be e-marked a package must comply with the three packers' rules and be packaged in quantities between 5g or ml and 10kg or L. The e mark is not compulsory.

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