The 79th Annual Meeting of the National Conference on Weights and Measures, July 17-21, 1994, in San Diego, Calif., will feature a special technical session on price verification in retail food stores as well as other issues important to consumers, retailers, distributors and manufacturers to maintain equity in the nation's marketplace. NCWM is sponsored by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology.
At the 79th NCWM Annual Meeting, weights and measures officials will be presented with an overview of the third draft of an examination procedure for use in verifying the accuracy of advertised prices. The NCWM Laws and Regulations Committee will ask weights and measures jurisdictions and retail stores to field test the procedure during 1994.
The examination procedure was developed by an NCWM working group, chaired by Barbara J. Bloch, assistant chief, Division of Measurement Standards, State of California, and state and local enforcement officials, representatives from major retail and trade organizations, consumers, and retailers from a wide variety of trade classes.
The findings from the field tests will be evaluated at NCWM's Interim Meeting in January 1995. The procedure is part of a proposed NCWM Uniform Law for Price Accuracy. The committee's aim is to have it considered for adoption by NCWM in July 1995.
NCWM delegates also will be asked to vote on a proposal to establish a uniform method of sale for compressed natural gas sold at retail as a vehicle fuel. The proposed method of sale is the "Gasoline Gallon Equivalent," defined as 5.660 pounds CNG.
The CNG method of sale was recommended to the NCWM L&R; Committee by a working group of weights and measures officials, representatives from government, automobile manufacturers, the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, gas and petroleum distributors, and trade and consumer groups.
Ken Butcher, NIST Office of Weights and Measures and technical adviser to the L&R; Committee, notes that if NCWM adopts this method of sale, consumers will be able to compare the price of the GGE to the price of gasoline and make purchasing decisions based on similar units of measure.
At the request of the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers, NCWM delegates will be asked to vote on a proposal to eliminate size restrictions on packages of butter, margarine, oleomargarine and similar products. Retailers report that consumers now want more choice in the range of sizes rather than those specified in the current uniform method of sale regulation adopted by NCWM. Since unit pricing is in widespread use, there is no longer a need to limit sizes so that consumers can make value comparisons.
The NCWM program also will include a discussion on the expected proposed rule by the Food and Drug Administration to adopt an amended version of NIST Handbook 133, Checking the Net Contents of Packaged Goods. In passing the Nutrition and Labeling and Education Act of 1990, Congress took steps toward establishing federal and state uniformity in net content requirements and test procedures for packaged food. The act preempts the states from using procedures that are not identical to FDA's.
NCWM petitioned the FDA for an exemption to the federal preemption so that the states can continue using NIST Handbook 133. Anticipating a possible denial, the NCWM Laws and Regulations Committee recommended several changes so the FDA can consider adopting the handbook, and the states and the federal agency can then use the same test methods to check the accuracy of net contents of packages.
NCWM, a standards-writing organization of more than 3,500 state, county and city weights and measures officials and associated business, federal and consumer representatives, receives technical support from NIST, a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, through OWM.