The symbol on your meat which could mean you're not getting what you pay for

There’s a symbol on your pre-packaged supermarket products which could mean you’re not exactly getting what you’ve paid for.

Earlier this month a woman posted a picture of beef mince she purchased from Woolworths complaining while it had 500g in weight on the package, it actually weighed 262g on a scale.

“I paid $7.50 for 500 grams and got this,” she wrote on Facebook.

Woolworths 500g beef lean mince is seen on a scale which reads 262g.
A woman recently complained her Woolies mince weighed 262g when it had 500g on the packaging. Source: Facebook

Underneath the post, a Woolworths representative said it was “very disappointing to see”.

“We're all about providing the freshest and highest quality products, so seeing you've received less mince than expected is concerning,” the representative wrote.

The case drew attention to the packaging and weight rule of supermarket meat and what the “e” following the weight means.

“I had the same problem,” one man wrote.

“Because it [is] produced on a production line they now use estimated weights. I now ask them to weigh everything in store before I take it.”

Another shopper suggested the woman find somewhere else to buy her meat.

“Woolworths are rubbish. You don’t even get what you pay for, find a decent butcher/wholesaler & you’ll never have any problems like this,” he said.

Woolworths beef mince 500g is pictured.
The 'e' pictured here means estimate. It's not necessarily 500g of beef mince. Source: Woolworths (file pic)

What does the ‘e’ mean after the meat’s weight?

The “e”, also known as the estimated sign or the quantité estimée is used by countries in the European Union along with Australia and South Africa.

In Australia, the “e” indicates goods have been packed in accordance with the Average Quantity System (AQS), a spokesman for the National Measurement Institute told Yahoo News Australia.

“AQS is based on recommendations developed by the International Organisation of Legal Metrology (IOLM), and is intended for use in large-scale packaging plants where goods (eg breakfast cereals) are packed in the same quantity in batches of at least 100 packages,” he said.

A customer selects meat products at a Woolworths Ltd. supermarket in Perth, Australia.
A shopper looks through meat at Woolies in Perth. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

When items are packaged under the AQS, they have to meet the “tolerable deficiency” making them within the estimated weight by a certain amount.

Under the directive tabled by the IOLM in 1997, packages between 5-50g or millilitres are allowed to be nine per cent off in error - but this margin decreases the larger the product is.

Between 300-500g it’s only allowed to be three per cent off meaning for a product tagged “500g e” it can only be as 15g off its weight.

The document also details how measurements such as litres, milligrams and kilograms should be labelled on a product.

The National Measurement Institute spokesman added the AQS helps manufacturers and packers with export, as other countries also use the “e-mark”, and gives international buyers confidence in the quantity presented on the product.

“Packers and importers have a duty to carry out sufficient checks to ensure that all batches of pre-packaged goods meet the legislative requirements for correct measurement,” he said.

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