new regulations

From 13 December 2014, the EU Regulation on the Provision of Food Information to Consumers will supersede food-based UK weights and measures regulations.

While the new rules will still require the display of net quantity (in weight or volume) of pre-packaged food on labelling, and avoid misleading on quantity, businesses will also be required to print information on quantity which is “clear, and easy to understand”.

Quantity information must also be marked directly on the package or an attached label, while products presented in a liquid medium will need to display their drained net weight, in addition to net weight.

Waitrose has been forced into a major fix of its website after The Grocer discovered it was failing to display the price per kg of a number of pre-packed fresh meat products.

Several lines, including Waitrose’s own-label pork fillet, four free-range British chicken thighs, and its Essential British self-basting chicken with pork, sage & onion and stuffing, did not display a cost per kg on the Waitrose website on 30 September.

Some of these products continued to display just an average price, with no cost per kg, as late as this week, despite government regulations - under the provisions of the Weights and Measures Act 1985, and the Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 2006 - stating that retailers should clearly display this information.

Any contravention of the labelling regulations could lead to enforcement by local trading standards authorities, and fines, according to BIS, which oversees the regulations.

A Waitrose spokesman said the omissions on its website would be fully corrected in an update next week, and would also include improvements to “nutrition information, with traffic light labelling, country of origin and sourcing information to help inform customers’ purchases”.

A spokeswoman for Bracknell Forest Trading Standards, which covers the locality of Waitrose’s HQ in Berkshire, said it was “aware” of the issues with Waitrose’s website.

“Our trading standards team work closely with Waitrose. We continue to support and guide many businesses in the borough ahead of new Food Information Regulations which come into force on 13 December,” she added.

This is not the first time Waitrose has been hit by technological gremlins in its e-commerce operations. A £10m relaunch of the website in 2011 was beset by teething problems including slow speed. Analysis by The Grocer found it was so poorly optimised for internet search that even Morrisons - which at the time did not operate an e-commerce site - had a higher search ranking.

It responded with a series of upgrades in the second half of the year to improve its search function and navigation, and further upgraded it last October, but took until February this year to launch a transactional app for mobile grocery shopping.

The app came bottom in The Grocer’s Mobile 33 last week, posting a score of just 11/100 after the Android app crashed during our mystery shop, and has also been panned by Google Play customers.

A Waitrose spokeswoman said it had “identified the root cause of this issue”, and was “working to address it as quickly as we can.”