What packaged goods are, how they are labelled, units of measurements used and compliance with weights and measures regulation.
Applies to England, Scotland and Wales
How packaged goods are regulated
The Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/659) set out a programme of quantity control for packaged goods. The regulations require consumers to be informed on quantity and protect against short measure, while allowing businesses flexibility to control quantity on the production line within specific tolerances.
What packaged goods are
A ‘package’ is a combination of a product and the package it is placed in without the purchaser being present and whereby the quantity of the package cannot be altered without the packaging being opened or modified.
Packaged goods that fall within the scope of the regulations are those made up in a quantity between 5 g and 25 kg and 5 ml and 25 l. These include both foodstuffs and non-foodstuffs.
How they are packed
The legislation sets out information for packers and importers on what they need to do to comply with the law. There are three areas covered:
Three Packers Rules
These set out 3 rules that packers and importers must comply with:
- The contents of the packages must not be less on average than the nominal quantity
- The proportion of packages which are short of the stated quantity by more than a defined amount (the ‘tolerable negative error’) should be less than a specified level
- No package should be short by twice the tolerable negative error
They provide protection for consumers on short measure.
Equipment and records
Equipment used to make up or check packaged goods must be suitable for purpose. Records of any checks undertaken must also be kept.
Packers and importers must ensure that packaged goods are labelled with quantity. The information must be visible, easy to read and not be able to be damaged.
It is the duty of the packer to make sure the quantity of packaged goods complies with the regulations. Enforcement of the law is carried out by Local Authority Trading Standards.
Using the ‘e’ mark
The ‘℮’ mark, when placed on a package, is a declaration by the packer that the contents comply with the average system. There is no requirement for packages to be labelled with the ‘℮’ mark. The Regulations prohibit its use on packages that do not meet certain criteria.
From 1 January 2021 the UK will continue to recognise the voluntary use of the ‘℮’ mark to denote compliance with the average system of quantity control for packaged goods.
Businesses must comply with the mandatory quantity labelling requirements of EU Regulation No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (FIC) which have direct effect in the UK.
For further information on the requirements and how to comply please read our food information to consumers: quantity labelling guide.
Units of measurement
Metric units of measurement must be used for most transactions regulated by the Weights and Measures Act 1985.
Imperial units are permitted to be used for the trade of the:
- pint for draught beer and cider
- pint for bottled milk
- troy ounce for precious metals
However, imperial units may continue to be used alongside metric in dual labelling and consumers can continue to request imperial quantities.
The following table gives conversions from metric to imperial and vice versa.
|Metric to imperial
|Imperial to metric
|1 litre (l) = 1.76 pints (pt)
|1 pint (pt) = 0.568 litres (l)
|1 kilogram (kg) = 2.205 pounds (l (b)
|1 pound (lb) = 0.454 kilograms (kg)
|100 grams (g) = 3.527 ounces (oz)
|1 ounce (oz) = 28 grams (g)
|1 kilometre (km) = 0.621 miles
|1 mile = 1.609 kilometres (km)
Specified Quantities are the fixed sizes certain goods must be sold in. In 2009 all specified quantities for pre-packaged foods were deregulated except for wines and spirits, which were retained.