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Trading standards
 See also
Small bakers exemption

Packing goods by weight or volume - 'Average Quantity'

There are two ways of packing goods by weight or volume. These are called minimum weight and the average system.

Minimum weight
This way of weighing or measuring goods can be used to sell loose or pre-packed goods. 

Goods that are sold or offered for supply by quantity must be at least the weight, measure or number as stated by the seller.

Any equipment used to weigh or measure the goods must comply with laws covering the construction, use and accuracy.

The law does not say that the seller must use equipment to find out the weight of the goods he/she sells, but if seller gets the weight wrong they will have no defence against a charge of short weight or measure.

The average system
The average system applies to most goods which are -

  • pre-packed
  • in pre-determined quantities by weight or volume
  • of not less than 5 grams or 5 millilitres
  • not more than 25 kilograms or 25 litres

The average system rules cover both automatic filling of packages and packers who do not use automatic equipment.

The average system includes tolerances for variation in the content. This includes allowing a proportion of packages to fall below their stated quantity within a specified tolerance.

The tolerances ensure that purchasers face a significantly reduced risk of short weight or measure and your business is protected against unfair competition.

The three packers’ rules

By law, a packer or importer of packages must ensure that they meet the following three rules -

  • the contents of the packages must not be less on average than declared weight on the package (known as the nominal quantity (Qn))
  • where packages contain less than the nominal quantity, only a specified proportion may be outside the legal limit for the pack size (known as the tolerable negative error (TNE) or T1 tolerance)
  • no package shall have a negative error greater than twice the TNE (known as the T2 tolerance)

Packers’ duties - equipment, checks and documentation

By law, packers must either -

  • measure the product contained in each package using suitable equipment to ensure that the packages are packed in accordance with the packers rules, or
  • carry out checks on the product contained in the packages using a system of -
    • sampling and tests which are sufficiently rigorous to ensure that the packages are packed in accordance with the packers rules
    • use suitable equipment
    • make a record of the checks
    • make a record of the corrections and adjustments which the checks have shown to be necessary

The records must be kept by the packer until the date, as marked on the package, which indicates by when the product ought to be consumed, or one year after the packages have left the possession of the packer or importer (as appropriate), whichever occurs first.

Small bakers - exemption from record keeping

If you are a small baker you may be able to obtain an exemption from keeping records from us as long as -

  • the process of baking is not fully automatic and when either -
    • each and every dough piece is weighed individually, or
    • the major proportion of the bread is sold directly to the public, either from premises where it is baked or from other premises or vehicles under his control, and
  • you carry out weight checks on samples of the loaves

An exemption would not exempt any baker from the duty of check weighing.

Find out how to apply for a small bakers' exemption certificate

Importers’ duties - equipment, checks and documentation

By law, importers must either -

  • carry out checks on the product contained in the packages using a system of -
    • sampling and tests which are sufficiently rigorous to ensure that the packages are packed in accordance with the packers rules
    • use suitable equipment
    • make a record of the checks
    • make a record of the corrections and adjustments which the checks have shown to be necessary

or

  • obtain, before the packages leave his possession, sufficient evidence to give reasonable grounds for believing that the packages have been packed in accordance with the packer’s rules.

The records must be kept by the importer until the date, as marked on the package, which indicates by when the product ought to be consumed, or one year after the packages have left the possession of the packer or importer (as appropriate), whichever occurs first.

It is better to talk to us before you spend money on weighing or measuring equipment products, labelling, offers, promotions and marketing.

Further advice for importers, manufacturers, packers, wholesalers and business to business suppliers

If you are an importer, manufacturer, packer, wholesaler or business to business supplier, we can provide you with guidance on legal requirements, setting up systems to achieve compliance, best practice and maintaining due diligence systems.

The Business Companion website has information on packing under the Average Quantity system. The site provides impartial free information, is maintained by the Trading Standards Institute and backed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The content is written and verified by expert contributors, but is not designed to be a replacement for professional advice and is intended only for guidance.

Visit the Business Companion website for information on packing under the Average Quantity system (opens in a new window)

If you are unsure how to comply with packing law in your business, contact us for guidance using the online form below. Alternatively call us on 01482 300 300 or email tradingstandardsadvicecentre@hullcc.gov.uk



Contact us

Trading Standards Advice
33 Witham
Hull
HU9 1DB

Tel: public enquiries - 01482 300 300 or business enquiries - 01482 300 301
Text phone: 01482 300 349
Fax: 01482 615 572
Email: tradingstandardsadvicecentre@hullcc.gov.uk

We are open Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm, and Friday 9am to 4.30pm. Please note the trading standards office is not open to the public. If you have an enquiry please make this to trading standards by telephone, text phone, email or post.

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