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Standardisation of packets from July 1

At a supermarket, I casually asked a few consumers buying tea if they were aware of the net content of the packets. "Of course, it's 500gm," one of them said.

delhi Updated: Apr 15, 2012 00:21 IST
Pushpa Girimaji

At a supermarket, I casually asked a few consumers buying tea if they were aware of the net content of the packets. "Of course, it's 500gm," one of them said. I asked them to look at the bottom of the package - the declared net weight on some of the packets was 490gm! "But it always was 500gm, when did it change?" the consumer asked in bewilderment. Well, it will soon go back to being 500gm, I said.

From July 1 this year, pre-packed tea can be sold only in standard sizes of 25gm, 50gm, 100gm, 125gm, 250gm, 500gm, 1kg and, thereafter, in multiples of 1kg. All non-standard sizes will go off the shelf. However, I feel that the 125gm pack size should also be removed from the list, as the difference between the 100gm and 125gm packs may be too small to be discernible.

In addition, the department of legal metrology should ensure that all packs mention the net weight and the MRP together. The manufacture and best-before dates also must appear in the same area so that consumers can see the information in one place and not have to search for them.

The practice of embossing the price and the date of manufacture should also be done away with as it does not facilitate easy reading and is not consumer-friendly. State governments should prosecute those manufacturers who do not abide by the provisions in the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities ) Rules 2011 about the display (font size, colour and area) of the information.

In addition to tea, 18 other categories of packed goods listed in the second schedule of the rules will have to comply with the standard sizes specified for them from July 1. These are: 1) coffee, 2) cereals and pulses, 3) edible oils, vanaspati, ghee, butter oil, 4) atta, rice flour, rawa and suji, 5) salt, 6) detergents, 7) aerated soft drinks, non-alcoholic beverages, 8) mineral water, 9) drinking water, 10) materials which may be constituted or reconstituted as beverages, 11) bread including brown bread , 12) biscuits, 13) un-canned packages of butter and margarine, 14) baby food, 15) weaning foods, 16) soaps including toilet soaps, 17) cement and 18) paints. For each of the categories, permitted sizes are specified.

But the government has to ensure that there is a reasonable gap between any two sizes and eliminate the sizes that reduce this gap and result in consumers getting misled on the content.

It is equally important to enlarge the list of goods under the second schedule to include commodities such as liquid soaps, including toilet soaps, ground spices, jams, pickles, ketchup, processed food including wafers (chips) and namkeens, and all cosmetics so that they are all packed in standard sizes. I must also mention here that the rules prohibit deceptive packaging or oversized packages.

RN Kataria: A packet of branded arhar dal that I bought in March mentions the date of packaging as April! What action can I take here?

Answer: Rule 6 (1) (B) of The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules provides that where the packaging material intended for use for a particular month is exhausted before the expiry of the month, then the package intended for the succeeding month can be used - the only exception being in case of food packages where the "use before" period is 90 days or less from the date of manufacture/packing.

So check the shelf life on the pack - if it is three months, then it is a clear violation of the rules. Return the package for a full refund and also file a complaint with the department of legal metrology.