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Measurement authority weighs in on supermarket giants

The National Measurement Institute has found thousands of products to be under the stated weight that was promised on packaging sold by Coles and Woolworths. 

Over the 2014-15 period, 3,962 non-compliance notices were issued to traders, up 13 per cent on the previous year’s figure.

Woolworths was found guilty and fines $3,000 for selling birthday mock cream sponge cakes, with shortfalls of up to 41 per cent. Coles was also hit with a $3,000 fine for using a weighing instrument not at zero that led to shortfalls of up to 9.4 per cent in prepacked lamb chops.

According to consumer advocate Christopher Zinn, a third of the complaints to the institute about prepacked articles were found to be justified, along with 40 per cent related to meat and 14 per cent related to fruit and vegetables.

“You can’t tell at the shops if something is 5 per cent underweight. While that might seem like a trivial amount, which makes no difference to the producer producing a million pounds of something –it might make a very significant difference in terms of their bottom line,” Zinn said.

A Coles spokesman said the case involved one product in one store.

“The issue, which resulted from a piece of fresh meat sticking to an automatic cutting and weighing machine between slices, was quickly corrected and no wrongly labelled items were sold to customers,” he said.

“Coles takes its trade measurement responsibilities very seriously and has robust operational and compliance systems in place in every one of its stores right around Australia.”

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