A system that is widely used in the European food industry is that of the estimated quantity (℮). This sign has nothing to do with the “E” used to indicate additives. The small ℮ appears next to the indication of the weight or volume (in g or kg, ml, or L).
Why ℮? This letter indicates a value of an estimated quantity. This symbol looks like the letter “e”, but it isn’t. If you like to print it on your packaging, it is necessary to respect its prescribed proportions.
The ℮-sign isn’t present on all the food packages. Indeed, a permission from the authorities is required to use it and it has to be requested. By using this system, companies can reduce their costs.
Packages without the ℮-sign
In the case of packaging without the ℮-sign there is only 1 condition to respect. The product quantity in the packaging is at minimum the declared one. Let’s take an example of a packaging with 500 g product (weight without packaging).
500 g – OK
525 g – OK
501 g – OK
499 g – Not OK
So there must always be dosed more than the declared quantity to meet the requirements.
Packages with the the ℮-sign
A packaging with the ℮-sign next to the declared quantity needs to be in conformity with the 3 conditions below:
- The average product quantity of several packages is at minimum the declared quantity;
- In a few cases the actual quantity of product may be lower than the declared quantity minus the inaccuracy;
- None of the packages may contain a product quantity which is less than the declared quantity minus 2 times the inaccuracy.
We take the example above, a packaging with 500 g ℮ product. The inaccuracy in this case is defined at 15 g. So the average quantity is at minimum 500 g, a few packages contain between 470 g and 485 g product and no package contains less than 470 g.
It’s a question of statistics. For both systems there is something to say. The most important is that the consumer has what he buys. For that reason the quantitative control is primary.
A quantitative control system must be put in place by the companies using the ℮-sign. The company must verify if the quantities respect the legal requirements. The weight of every packaging is controlled.
The data must be archived. Regularly there are unannounced inspections by the authorities. Everything must be up-to-date and conform the rules.
The advantages of using the ℮-sign
The ℮-sign is advantageous because the dosed product quantity can be lower. It is not needed anymore to dose at minimum the product weight. It is sufficient to dose the average of the declared quantity (in combination with the conditions 2 and 3). This is an important gain.
Aspects to be considered for the establishment of an ℮ sign system:
- If the process dispersion is significant it will be difficult to fulfil the conditions 2 and 3, implicating that the average weight needs to be substantially higher (which may cancel the financial profits).
- Investments for the quantitative controls, recording and archiving are necessary.
The permission to use the ℮-sign must be requested to the authorities. All the companies which are commercializing in the EU and the EFTA can participate. An audit will be planned and carried out by the authorised organism.