Weighing & Labelling: independent retailers

Growing pressure on the meat sector means that weighing and labelling systems need to be top quality. But how does this impact butchers and small operators? Michelle Perrett reports.  

Chris Kelly, technical sales for retail weighing and food machinery supplier South Coast Systems (SCS), says this regulation is a challenge for small food processors such as retail butchers. “Catering butchers and a lot of high street butchers are running another business in the back of the shop. They are supporting that business by selling meat to schools, pubs and clubs,” he says.

He believes these smaller operators are under pressure as they to not have the resources to keep on top of the changing regulations. “It is a minefield and it is probably the worst single thing that is genuinely fast changing for all our independent retailers,” says Kelly. “They don’t have the benefit enjoyed by some of their bigger competitors of having whole departments devoted to it. For them to keep up with the legislation and regulation changes is quite a challenge.”

He says there is also a challenge at a local level as Environmental Health Officers are putting forward suggestions such as ‘pack by’ dates. “My understanding is that there is no legal requirement for this, but the law asks you for an indication of minimum durability which is a use by date,” he says. “That is typical of the lack of clarity between the authorities.”

Kelly advises independent retailers to consider spending extra money on equipment that is future-proof and allows for flexible label creation. He says the small retailer has to consider any future items they have to accommodate such as more label ingredients.

“A label has the name of the product, ingredients, date, name and address, weight, price per kilo and total price. Then they may say, ‘We want you to put a date on in case it is frozen’,” he says. “So if you haven’t got equipment that enables you to do that yourself then you are going to fork out more money for someone to have to do it for you.” He says that speed is equally important for the small operator. To have fast printing machines such as the Avery products, which print 150mm per second is advisable. He predicts that there may come a time when even more detailed information has to be given to the consumer. “We suspect there will be more requirements including pack date and use by date in the future,” he says.

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