Pre-packaged commodities are estimated to account for more than 75% of the total value of traded commodities worldwide. However, exports of many prepackaged consumer products from developing countries are often hampered by lengthy border control procedures or even rejected, due to nonconformity to indicated quantity of product. (1)
To eliminate these trade barriers, the International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML) is currently developing the 'international quantity mark' (called IQ-mark for the interim), a voluntary international system of certification for pre-packaged goods. The system aims to facilitate trade by reducing time spent at borders due to quantity checks and giving buyers the confidence that the goods meet their specifications.
The complexities of quantity control
Most countries have legislation to control the quantity of product in pre-packaged goods based on a so-called average system, which requires a sample to be taken to determine if the lot is acceptable.
However, testing at the point of sale destroys the pre-packaged product and is not always feasible, as often not enough items are available for sampling.
The solution is to control at the point of packing. Increasingly, however, packing does not take place in the same country as where the product is sold to the consumer. In general, countries do not control exported products or have the facilities or the resources to check all imported lots of pre-packaged product. OIML has published two recommendations to facilitate trade in pre-packaged goods: OIML R 87, which deals with the quantity of product in prepackages, and OIML R 79, which covers labelling requirements for pre-packaged products.
OIML certification system for pre-packages
OIML is developing a certification system for the quantity of product in pre-packages which aims to:
* Provide confidence in the declaration of the nominal quantity on pre-packages;
* Promote the uniform declaration of the nominal quantity;
* Facilitate trade in pre-packaged products; and
* Increase the efficiency of the control of prepackages by authorities.
In addition, OIML is currently developing the system requirements for packers and certification bodies.
Similar to the existing e-marking requirements of the European Union (EU), the OIML certification system will provide evidence that pre-packaged exports meet quantity requirements when imported into countries that have implemented the provisions of OIML R 87 and R 79. However, the EU's e-mark is a self-declaration by the packer which does not involve third-party certification at the time of packing. The packer has to demonstrate its ability to control the quantity of product before being allowed to use the e-mark, but in many cases this is not enforced in the country of origin. …