3 March 2000

Metric now compulsory for meat

IF you are selling meat direct to the public, caterers or retailers then all products must now be weighed in grams and kg after a change to legislation covering weights and measures on Jan 1.

Metrication has been shaping UK trade since 1965 and has only now hit loose goods and those priced at a retail counter. Euro- babble it may be, but trading standards are taking a tough line over those who fail to convert. Already a high profile legal case is being taken against an Essex butcher who refused to conform. But there is some middle ground.

It seems there is little to stop traders selling under the original llb and 4oz measurements as long as the new metric conversion is also shown. In fact, some officials within the Department of Trade & Industry have been suggesting just that to small businesses, but with the stipulation that lettering for both metric and imperial prices is of the same size.

But the ruling does not stop at labels, it also applies to promotional material including fliers, posters, labels and stand-alone price tickets. These must also be changed and the imperial/metric comparison rules apply over letter size. But the government has been kind enough to allow the consumer the choice of asking for products in the old measurements without fear of prosecution.

Getting familiar

On a serious note, independent traders must get familiar with the new system and can get leaflets explaining the metrication changes from local authority trading standard departments (see phone books) or the DTI.

Weigh scales must also be changed. Some electronic units can be adapted and manufacturers or the UK Weighing Federation can advise producers whether their machines are up to a refit.

If the consumer is confused, leaflets are also available free from trading standards outlining the changes for them.

This may seem like another Brussels-inspired whim to boost consumer confusion and weigh-scale sales. But it has a fundamental aim – to remove confusion from comparing pre-packed and loose/over-the-counter pricing.

&#8226 Useful numbers: Metric Helpline (0845-601 0540); UK Weighing Federation (01604-622023).