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Packaging and Labeling Requirements FAQs

The short answer is “There is no tolerance.” 

According to NIST Handbook 133, the net quantity of content statement must be accurate, but reasonable variations are permitted. These variations are permitted only when caused by unavoidable deviations that occur in current good manufacturing and quantity control practices. A sample must “pass” two requirements: the Average Requirement and the Individual Package Requirement. A sample “fails” if either requirement is not met.

  • The Average Requirement means that the average net quantity of contents of packages in a lot must at least equal the net quantity of contents declared on the label.
  • The Individual Package Requirement states that the variation of individual package contents from the labeled quantity must not be “unreasonably large.” 

Click on the video link below for additional information about the Individual Package Requirement.

David Sefcik from the NIST Office of Weights and Measures (OWM) discusses the basics of the Individual Package Requirement according to NIST Handbook 133.

Packages that are underfilled by more than the Maximum Allowable Variation (MAV) specified for the package are considered unreasonable errors. Unreasonable shortages are not generally permitted, even when overages in other packages in the same lot, shipment, or delivery compensate for such shortages. These unreasonable minus errors, or errors that exceed the MAV, are based on the labeled quantity and are found in Tables in Appendix A of NIST Handbook 133, Checking the Net Content of Packaged Goods.

For more information, see Chapter 1 (General Information) in NIST Handbook 133, Checking the Net Contents of Packaged Goods

Also see NIST's Standards Information Center Compliance FAQs: Packaging and Labeling in the US. More specific FAQs for Weights and Measures are coming soon.


Created June 27, 2023, Updated May 10, 2024