An interesting report has been submitted to the Brighton Watch Committee by Mr. T. J. Metcalfe, Chief Inspector of Weights and Measures. In his report Mr. Metcalfe observes that the Sale of Food (Weights and Measures) Act, 1926, which controls trading methods in connection with the sale of most articles of food, does not require that jams, marmalades, syrups or honey should be sold by weight and manufacturers and packers, with few exceptions, have not hitherto applied any weight statement to their prepacked products. Trading has generally been in standard sizes, referred to as “1's” and “2's,” and although most members of the public have understood that packs contain 1‐lb. or 2‐lb. net, no offence can be proved to have been committed when the seller makes no purportation of weight at the time of sale. The introduction of rationing has caused your Inspectors, in association with the Enforcement Officers of the Food Control Committee, to inquire more fully into the position which has developed. A purchaser is entitled to receive from the retailer with whom he is registered a maximum quantity of 2 ozs. of preserves per week. If the retailer, following the established practice, cancels eight ration coupons, hands over a jar of preserve and charges the maximum permitted price per pound, then there would appear to be prima facie evidence of a representation of weight of 1lb. Any deficiency would apparently constitute an offence by the retailer. As, however, the retailer could prove that he purchased the pack in the condition in which he sold it, that the manufacturer or packer should know the implications of the Rationing Order and the Sale of Food Act, and that the packer would strongly object to a retailer interfering with any prepacked preserve or syrup in such manner as might imperil the quality or brand repute of the product, it would appear that the retailer has an adequate defence. He could not, however, rely on a warranty, it not being the custom of the trade to mark a statement of weight on the jars, nor to insert a sufficient warranty in invoices. While the Board of Trade, under powers conferred by Section 9 (1) of the Act of 1926, can make a regulation bringing preserves within the First Schedule to the Act and thus requiring them to be sold only by net weight, this has never been done because manufacturers and packers have emphasised that there are practical difficulties, in my opinion not insurmountable, in guaranteeing the net weight content of a commodity packed gross in containers which may vary appreciably in tare weight. We have recently had evidence of deficiencies of ⅜ oz. and ¾ oz. in jars of golden syrup sold against eight ration coupons and for which the maximum permitted price per pound has been charged. The packers admit the possibility of such deficiencies and, while stating that they are doing their best to give 1lb. net weight they claim that no offence was committed against the Price Control Order in the case of the pack found to be ⅜ oz. short because the value of the shortage was not one farthing, nor was an offence committed against the Sale of Food Act because the deficiency in a single pack sold at the one time was inconsiderable. But the cumulative effect of such a deficiency in thousands of sales must be considerable and the loss to the purchasing public, in an article of food of which they receive so small a ration, is one of some gravity. In taking any legal proceedings for short weight under Section I of the Sale of Food Act, 1926, the Inspector is under an obligation to prove (a) that the deficiency was a considerable one, or (b) that inconsiderable deficiencies existed in a reasonable number of articles of the same kind sold or held for sale at the same time. It would be most undesirable for the Inspector, in seeking to establish proof of short weight, to interfere with, say, a dozen jars of preserves or syrups, having regard to the present supply position. It should not have to be necessary for the Inspector to have to rely on Section I standing alone. If the Board of Trade made a regulation under Section 9 (1) requiring such articles of food to be sold by net weight only, then the manufacturer or packer would need to guarantee the accuracy of weight content and he, I submit, is the person best able to ensure it.
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