Packaging symbols, Part 7: Deviations permitted – stated quantities in prepackaging
The E symbol certifies a product for consumer protection purposes. It ensures that a package is filled as specified in the EU Prepackaging Directive. Photo: European Union Directive 2009/34/EC
Did you know that? What packaging symbols really mean
Part 7: Deviations permitted – stated quantities in prepackaging
Fluctuations in the filling of packages are almost inevitable with a filling machine. To make sure that the consumer is not at a disadvantage from major differences between the actual content and the details on the packaging, there are national specifications throughout the world, defining certain maximum permitted deviations.
The provisions of the EU Prepackaging Directive specify a so-called principle of averages, whereby deviations are permitted in individual packages, provided that they do not go below the stated quantity within the overall batch. The difference between the actual and specified quantities must not be more than 50% for any product. The actual packaging size is decisive in determining the maximum permitted lower value. The EEC sign is not mandatory.
Compliance with the stated quantity in the Prepackaging Directive is ensured through spot checks by official bodies. The checks take place on the relevant company’s premises, as the legal requirements apply to the time of production. Any later weight loss through drying or evaporation is seen as natural loss and therefore not considered relevant.
EU Prepackaging Directive
The dimensions of the symbol are subject to precise specifications. It must be at least 3 mm in height, but it can either be preceded or followed by the figure indicating the quantities.
The volume of liquid food is normally specified in millilitres or litres, while solid food is measured in weight, either milligrams or grams. Exceptions are made, for instance, for fruit, where quantities may be provided in numbers of items.
If a product is preserved in a liquid, the label must provide details of the overall weight, drained net weight and brim measure. Photo: gollys.de
Stated quantity and drained net weight
The drained net weight is specified as the stated quantity, not counting the liquid preserving the product. The total stated quantity in prepackaging refers to the actual volume contained within it. The weight of the packaging is not included. However, an exception is made for sweet wrappers and thin plastic used on salami or chorizo.
If a certain ingredient in a ready meal is specially promoted by the manufacturer, then the percentage in the food must be specified separately on the packaging.
Example of quantity labelling. Photo: Nestlé
Roman or Cyrillic script?
The “г”, which is sometimes used as an additional symbol on packaging, is Cyrillic and the equivalent of “g” – in this instance, for grams. It shows that the product is sold in European countries that use Cyrillic script and is provided in addition to the Roman letter “g”. If prepackaged food is sold internationally, the details on the packaging are often voluntarily provided in several languages. However, there is no legal requirement to do so.
If, next to the “e”, , there is also the letter “г”, this indicates that the food was produced in a country using Cyrillic script. Photo: Crown
Good reasons for staying below the specified quantities
Due to production technology, the size of the package does not always indicate how much it contains. Despite legal specifications on stated quantities, consumers often have problems believing in a manufacturer’s goodwill. The media are full of accounts of air-filled packages, and there are court cases against food manufacturers around the globe. However, complaints about oversized packages are usually only worthwhile if it can be proved that the discrepancy is a matter of deliberate deception.
If the packaging is much bigger than the content, then there are often good reasons. Photo: File: #209650036 | author: sorapolujjin / fotolia.com
Furthermore, there are actually plenty of reasons why oversized packages might make sense. It's not only the relevant manufacturing companies who give such reasons, but also research organisations such as the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics.
After all, it’s a good way to protect a product during transport and storage, for instance, by stopping crisps from getting squashed.