U.S. Crackdown on Seafood Package Weights

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On March 29, 2010, the National Conference on Weights and Measures announced the findings of a voluntary multi-state investigation, revealing significant overcharges due to incorrect package weights on some frozen seafood products.

The multi-state investigation included Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, Ohio and Washington.

In Connecticut, the Department of Consumer Protection review included packaged seafood from 20 different grocery locations statewide, including major grocery chains and independent grocers.

Inspectors removed all packages of the 26 failed products from sale. In all, 847 packages of short-weight seafood were taken off sale. The actual dollar cost of the shortages ranged from just two cents to $1.95 per package.

Connecticut has adopted National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards for verifying how much the actual seafood weighs (the net weight). Ice and glazing in seafood packages is not allowed to be counted in the net weight of the product.

In addition to removing short weight packages from sale, Wisconsin plans further enforcement for the worst offenders. Packers apply ice glazing shortly after the seafood catch, and grocery stores are sometimes unaware of actual percentage of glazing added to a product.

Of the seventeen states that participated in the investigation, only Alaska was found to have zero violations.

The investigation was prompted by the National Fisheries Institute, a seafood industry association, due to growing concern that reduced funding for weights and measures inspection programs may be tilting the playing field in favor of dishonest businesses.

The study revealed that some packers were including the weight of ice glazing in the labeled weight for the seafood, which is prohibited by state and federal law.

This article was originally published: March 30, 2010.

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