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NIST Metrology Day Celebrates Measurements in the Market

fish filets on scale
Credit: Shutterstock

The next time you shop for frozen seafood, and the price per pound seems enticingly low, make sure that you are really getting a full 16 ounces of fish. Unethical merchants or suppliers may try to have you pay fish prices for ice by including the weight of the ice, not just the weight of the fish. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will celebrate World Metrology Day on May 20 by holding a symposium in Gaithersburg, Md. The symposium on "Measurements in Commerce: Metrology Underpinning Economic Development" will emphasize how measurement science and standards play an everyday role in our global economy.

Lisa Weddig, the director of regulatory and technical affairs at the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) in McLean, Va., will describe international trade and the importance of accurate measurements for seafood products, which represent billions of pounds of commerce every year. Fair competition between seafood suppliers only becomes possible when all sellers declare the proper weight on seafood products and avoid deceptive practices such as substituting a cheaper species of fish for the one listed on the label. NFI members have established the Better Seafood Board to ensure that fair trade exists with proper declarations on seafood products.

The United States is undergoing a subtle transition to the International System of Units (SI), commonly known as the metric system, according to NIST's Elizabeth Gentry, who will speak on this topic at the symposium. For example, Gentry points out, food nutrition labels are expressed almost exclusively in the metric system, and consumers are gaining a feel for metric units without necessarily realizing it. U.S. corporate management is making decisions to switch immediately to SI units when the long-term and strategic benefits of international trade outweigh the costs of making a more gradual transition. As Gentry will explain, the NIST Metric Program works to facilitate the use of metric units when it is needed by industry, government and consumers.

Robert Kaarls, the Secretary of the International Committee for Weights and Measures and President of the Consultative Committee on Metrology in Chemistry, will describe how traceable measurements of chemical contaminants in international commerce can help nations better determine that the products they are importing meet their standards for safety. In addition, with nations increasing their nutritional requirements for the foods they import, traceable measurements in world trade can also better ensure that imported foods contain required levels of nutrients. The International Bureau of Weights and Measures established May 20 as World Metrology Day and encourages national measurement institutes such as NIST to celebrate metrology and its importance to society. Rich Kayser, NIST Chief Scientist, will open the NIST celebration, followed by Belinda Collins, director of NIST's Technology Services unit, who will give an overview of the worldwide celebration of World Metrology Day.

The NIST symposium is free; members of the general public who wish to attend should contact NIST's Sandra Auchmoody at sandra.auchmoody [at] (sandra[dot]auchmoody[at]nist[dot]gov) by May 15 to allow sufficient time for processing visitor registration.

Released April 21, 2009, Updated January 20, 2023