The hidden symbol on meat packages that all shoppers should know about

Feb 16, 2020
The photo showed off the massive difference between what is labelled and what you actually get. Source: Facebook.

A simple Facebook post about packaged meat has sent the internet into a frenzy as everyday shoppers contemplate the difference between what you think you’re buying at the supermarket compared to what you might actually take home.

Woolworths recently came under fire after Queensland mother Mandy Smith claimed that a 500g meat package she bought from the supermarket for $7.50 actually weighed almost half that. After coming home and weighing the beef mince on her home scales, she said the package contained just 262kg of meat.

She took to Facebook to express her anger and shared a photograph of the mince sitting on her scales to back up her claims.

“Seriously Woolworths…” she wrote. “I have been buying this mince like this for a while, and not cheap due to trying to cut out fat. I weighed it today and there is less than 300 grams in a supposed 500g pack! I paid $7.50 for 500 grams and got this! And yes my scales are fine I use them daily by way. How many people are you ripping off including the packaging weight?”

Seriously Woolworths ,,, I have been buying this mince like this for a while , and not cheap due to trying to cut out…

Posted by Mandy Maree Smith on Friday, 31 January 2020

The post went viral as other shoppers shared their thoughts on why they believed the meat was so severely underweight. One commenter suggested that if she had weighed it with the soak pads used to absorb excess liquids, the entire package would have added up to 500g, while another said she would have gotten the full amount if she were to weigh it frozen.

However, a post from another customer several days later appeared to debunk the soak pads theory as he presented the unwrapped package of meat on the scales at a similarly low weight of 367g. The post read: “This is pretty poor, not many Woolworths Rewards here, are other people aware of this? Yes the ‘e’ is an estimate but this is not really acceptable, I think people should weigh theirs.”

This is pretty poor , not many Woolworths Rewards here, are other people aware of this? Yes the "e" is an estimate but this is not really acceptable, I think people should weigh theirs. Woolworths

Posted by Mark Hall on Thursday, 13 February 2020

The dissatisfied customer was correct in that the small ‘e’ beside the weight on products does stand for estimate and actually means that the amount doesn’t have to be the same in each packet, but that it should be close.

According to the National Measurement Institute (NMI), the process is known as the “average quantity system” (AQS) and is an internationally agreed upon method of determining size and quantity of pre-packaged items with 97.5 per cent accuracy.

The website states that the key rules include:

  • The average net content in a sample from the production run of pre-packed articles cannot be less than the stated quantity marked on the packages.
  • Allowance is made for a small number of packages to exceed a ‘tolerable deficiency’.
  • None of the packages in the sample can have more than twice the prescribed tolerable deficiency.

In response to the viral post, Woolworths said they were taking the customer complaint seriously and looking into it.

“We want our customers to shop with the confidence they’re getting what they’re paying for,” a spokesman for the supermarket giant said. “We’re aware of the customer’s claim and have been looking into it with our meat production partner.

“We have a range of checks and balances in place throughout production to help ensure our products comply with trade measurement requirements. If ever our customers are concerned about the weight of a product, we’d encourage them to return it for a refund.”

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Have you ever bought something that was over or under weight? How do you stop this from happening?

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