Secret symbol behind supermarket mince ‘rip-off’
After a Woolworths customer blasted the supermarket for selling her a packet of beef mince with half the labelled amount of meat inside, a small symbol on the packet has been highlighted as a potential root of the problem.
Queensland mum Mandy Smith purchased 500g of beef mince from her local Woolworths store recently, and paid $7.50 for the packet.
But when she later weighed the meat on her kitchen scales at home, she discovered a big problem - the mince actually weighed just 262g.
She took to Facebook to slam the company alongside photos of the packet.
"Seriously Woolworths … I have been buying this mince like this for a while, and not cheap due to trying to cut out fat. I weighed it today and there is less than 300 grams in a supposed 500g pack!" she wrote.
"I paid $7.50 for 500 grams and got this! And yes my scales are fine I use them daily by (the) way. How many people are you ripping off (by) including the packaging weight?"
However it has since been pointed out that supermarkets put a letter 'e' next to the weight on products - like the now-infamous packet of mince - stands for estimate.
This means the amount doesn't necessarily have to be the same on the packet, but it's supposed to be close to it.
"The 'e' sign on a food label indicates that the volume or weight of the product is an average value," it reads on FoodInfo.net.
"Packaging machines in the food industry are not completely accurate; there will always be a margin of inaccuracy."
Internationally, the mark is used to certify that the contents of the package "comply with specified criteria for estimation".
And a Woolworths spokesman told news.com.au the company took Ms Smith's claim seriously.
"We want our customers to shop with the confidence they're getting what they're paying for," the spokesman said.
"We have a range of checks and balances in place to help ensure our products comply with trade measurement requirements."
It is understood Woolworths products are audited regularly and checked for their compliance to net weight requirements, with commercial scales regularly recalibrated.
Ms Smith told news.com.au the pricing was unfair.
"I was making a bulk meal as I decided to go back on Weight Watchers, so it called for weighing and I decided to weigh (the) mince … when I opened it I also thought, 'there is no way this is 500 grams of mince'," she said.
She said there was "no way" the price of mince should include the weight of absorbent pads inside the packaging.
"There is no way we should be paying for soak pads. Also, is this on packaging? No I don't think so," she said.
Her post struck a chord with fellow social media users, who expressed their anger at the pricing issue.
"200g is a lot when you think about it! 200g could make a whole other plate," one Facebook user wrote, while another posted: "Well that's insane … it's 200 grams out, almost half, so unacceptable!"
Some Facebook users claimed the absorbent pads at the bottom of meat packages were included in the total estimated weight, which could explain the discrepancy - although others argued that practice was unfair.
"The soak pads have to be included. because the juices from the mince soak into them. Not saying it should be 200g … but some of the weight from the mince will be there," one person wrote, while Mandy replied: "And is this explained anywhere on the packaging? Still don't think that pad is 240 grams worth either."
Some Facebook users suggest shoppers insist on having items weighed in-store before purchasing - but others suggested boycotting the chain altogether and opting for local, independent butchers instead.
Woolworths responded to the shopper's concerns on Facebook and confirmed it would investigate the matter.
"This is very disappointing to see, Mandy. We're all about providing the freshest and highest quality products, so seeing you've received less mince than expected is concerning," Woolworths posted.