Friday, May 11, 2012

Underweight meat items results in fine

Kraft recently received some bad publicity for selling packages of food that were deemed underweight by Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. One can be certain that the company was not trying to take advantage of the consumer. Rather, issues happened during processing that impacted pack weight, in this case, the product may have been cooked a little more and thus drove off more moisture.

Each year, a company of two will be caught selling underweight units and then publicly chastised by the press. Each case occurs in roughly the same way. State officials, who regulate retail, pull a dozen or so product units from the store shelf and then weigh the contents of the package to see if those packages meet label weight. In this case, a number of units were below weight.   

In general, the companies try to minimize the give-away (weight above the stated label weight). Weight loss must be factored in (moisture loss through the package, purge, etc). Process variation must be calculated. Taking all this into account, a target weight is determined. Now there will be a few packages that are underweight, but in general, these conditions must be met. For any sample lot (a dozen or so units from a lot), the average weight must exceed label weight, the number of containers at or above weight must be greater than the number of units below weight, and no containers must be more than the MAV (maximum allowable variance).

Those who package food should be aware of Handbook 133 (good document to download and keep on file)

Kraft fined for underweight Oscar Mayer packages

MADISON, Wis. (AP)–Kraft Foods Group has paid a fine of nearly $37,000 to settle allegations of short-weight Oscar Mayer meats found in Wisconsin stores.

State inspectors found 24 packages of Oscar Mayer meats that were below their stated weight. The packages were found in Wisconsin stores between last August and this February.

An official of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection calls the shortages "very significant."

None were packaged at the Madison factory of Oscar Mayer, which is based in Madison.

A Kraft spokeswoman tells the
Wisconsin State Journal some oven heat changes and other manufacturing changes "resulted in unplanned and unwanted variances." She says corrections have been made.

As part of the civil forfeiture agreement, Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft did not admit to violating any Wisconsin laws.

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