Guidance

Packaged goods: weights and measures regulations

What packaged goods are, how they are labelled, units of measurements used and compliance with weights and measures regulation.

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:

  1. The contents of the packages must not be less on average than the nominal quantity
  2. 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
  3. 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.

Labelling

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.

Consumer protection

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.

Food labelling

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.

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

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.

Who to contact

For business specific advice contact your Local Authority Trading Standards Department who may be able to provide you with Primary Authority advice.

For consumer/general public enquiries contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06 or visit their website.

Published 18 March 2014
Last updated 21 December 2020 + show all updates
  1. Paragraph on e-marking updated and link added to the new guidance on packaged goods from 1 January 2021.

  2. The packaged goods guidance note for business has been updated to reflect changes to the Packaged Goods Regulations made under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

  3. The attached guidance note on the regulations has been updated to take account of the changes made by the Weights and Measures (Food Amendment) Regulations as a result of Regulation EU (No 1169/2011) on the provision of food information to consumers.

  4. First published.