What this letter 'e' really means on your supermarket mince - and what you can do it about it

A confused shopper's Facebook post, has resulted in angry Australians complaining to their local supermarkets over pre-packaged meats.

When a Woolworths customer shared a photo of her $7.50 lean beef mince last week weighing 262g - rather than the 500g it was advertised to be - the internet erupted in indignation.

The shopper had bought the meat believing it weighed 500g as per the label on the front. But her scales at home told a different story and, according to her, the meat weighed only 262g.

She took to the internet to complain and ask Woolworths why they had short-changed her by so much. 

"Seriously Woolworths," she wrote. "I have been buying this mince like this for a while and (it is) not cheap due to trying to cut out fat," the shopper called Mandy wrote on Facebook.

"I weighed it today and there is less than 300g in a supposed 500g pack!

"And yes my scales are fine. I use them daily. How many people are you ripping off including the packaging weight?"

But one well informed social media user pointed out that the letter 'e' next to the weight stands for estimate, meaning the weight of the meat doesn't necessarily have to be the same on the packet, but it should be 'close' to it.

According to FoodInfo.net, "The 'e' sign on a food label indicates that the volume or weight of the product is an average value." 

"Packaging machines in the food industry are not completely accurate; there will always be a margin of inaccuracy," the website reads.

A Woolworths spokesperson said, "We want our customers to shop with the confidence they're getting what they're paying for.

"We're aware of the customer's claim and have been looking into it with our meat production partner.

"We have a range of checks and balances in place throughout production to help ensure our products comply with trade measurement requirements.

"Packaging machines in the food industry are not completely accurate; there will always be a margin of inaccuracy.

"If ever our customers are concerned about the weight of a product, we'd encourage them to return it for a refund."

Mandy's comments on Facebook unleashed a wave of similar issues from other customers, many who claimed they now refused to shop at supermarkets to buy their meat.

One customer said she had paid for 1.464kg of chicken breast but the meat actually weighed only 1.370kg - with 125g of packaging.

What can you do if this happens to you?

Angry shoppers give their advice.

  • "I had the same problem. I now ask them to weigh everything in store before I take it," one shopper said.
  • "Buy meat at the supermarket deli counter, rather than from the pre-packaged section," said another.. 
  • "Complain, complain, complain!," said another. "Then shop at the butcher down the road, that's the only way supermarkets will stop processes like this."

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