Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
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More choice for consumers as packaging restrictions lifted

More choice for consumers as packaging restrictions lifted

DEPARTMENT FOR INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES AND SKILLS News Release (160807) issued by The Government News Network on 5 October 2007

Shoppers will benefit from greater choice and flexibility in the supermarket after a new European Directive deregulated fixed packaging sizes.

Shopping habits have moved on massively since the 1960s, when these restrictions were originally introduced.

From April 2009 UK companies will have the freedom to pack foods in different sizes and to develop innovative packaging.

At present, legislation dating back to the 1960s requires about 30 different foods to be packaged in specified quantities, including butter, cereal, potatoes, sugar, dried fruit, pasta and rice.

Science and Innovation Minister Ian Pearson said:

"This is good news for UK consumers and businesses. It simplifies EU legislation, removes outdated restrictions and most importantly, gives shoppers more choice.

"The shopping habits of modern consumers have moved on since the 1960s, when these restrictions were originally introduced. There are now a higher proportion of single person households and smaller family sizes, who appreciate greater choice in package sizes for reasons of convenience, cost and freshness.

"The new Directive frees up UK manufacturers to innovate in how they package and market their products."

The restrictions were originally introduced to ensure consumers could be certain pre-packaged foods were made up in easily identifiable standard sizes.

Today, consumer protection has advanced and almost all pre-packaged foods are required to be labelled with their quantity, making fixed package rules redundant. Unit pricing provides a quick and accurate method of comparing goods without restricting choice of pack size.

Notes to editors:

1. The deregulation of specified quantities will not impose any new costs for business. They will be free to pack in any size, including the sizes they now use.

2. Guidance has been issued by Local Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) that no new prosecutions should be undertaken against manufacturers who introduce new package sizes from a date three months after the Directive comes into force. This is to enable manufacturers to adjust to the changes within their normal business and labelling cycles.

3. Under the terms of the European Directive, member states who already have quantity restrictions in place on milk, butter, pasta, coffee and white sugar may maintain the restrictions for up to five years. During this time, the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) will consult with industry and consumer groups on the best timeframe and method for easing the restrictions.

4. Packaging restrictions will remain in place for wines and spirits.

5. Science and innovation is now part of the new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). The Department's primary role will be to drive forward delivery of the Government's long-term vision to make Britain one of the best places in the world for science, research and innovation and to raise the level of education and skills at every level in our economy to give the UK a competitive edge.

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